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How does the brain play a role in sexual behaviour?

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How does the brain play a role in sexual behaviour? Sexual behaviour has been studied in a number of different subject areas and derives from the instinct of survival through reproduction. It is often divided into two main categories: the 'developmental' and 'activational' effects (Pinel, J. P. J. 2003. P.325). The former refers to the progress from conception to full sexual development, distinguishing one as male or female. The latter is concerned with the act of copulation itself. In this essay we will consider the part that the brain has to play in this. There are three main areas of the brain that affect sexual behaviour; these are the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus and the pineal. The brains main purpose with respect to sexual behaviour is to release steroid hormones into the body. As Brown (1994) asserted, these are those hormones, unlike most others, that directly effect genes and have 'especially diverse and long-lasting effects on cellular function' (Pinel, J. P. J. 2003. P.326). There are two sections to the pituitary gland: the anterior pituitary and the posterior pituitary. The posterior pituitary grows from the bottom of the hypothalamus and the anterior pituitary attaches itself to this. The primary function of the pituitary gland is to release tropic hormones, these are those that bring about the release of other hormones elsewhere in the body. However, it the anterior pituitary that directly affects sexual behaviour as this is where most of these hormones are actually released from. ...read more.


P. J. 2003. P.344). The rats are born with the same size nucleus, but the male sexually dimorphic nucleus then increases in size at a much more rapid rate then the female. The size of male rat's nucleus is due to the levels of testosterone, as further tests by Gorski (1980), where male rats have been castrated and female rats injected with testosterone, have indicated. There have also been a number of other differences between the hypothalamus of males and females discovered since. With respect to humans, there have been nuclei found in the preoptic, suprachiasmatic and anterior parts that are significantly smaller in females than in males. Therefore, when looking at the role the hypothalamus plays in sexual behaviour, we will consider males and females separately. In males, the medial preoptic area of the hypothalamus is of great importance; this was found by Malsbury (1971) when electrical stimulation of this area encouraged male sexual behaviour. As tests by Hull et al (1999) have illustrated, if this is destroyed in any way, males no longer appear to be able to copulate. Although they attempted to receive females in a study by Everitt and Stacey (1987), for an unknown reason they still could not copulate. This area carries a signal to the lateral tegmental field, if the connection between the two is destroyed, sexual activity is affected, as discovered by Brackett & Edwards (1984). The medial amygdala is also sexually dimorphic, again much larger in male rats, discovered by Hines, Allen and Gorski (1992). ...read more.


(1999) 'Hormone-Neurotransmitter Interaction in the Control of Sexual Behaviour' in 'Behavioural Brain Research' 105, 105-116 Koolhaas, J. M., Schuurman, T. & Wierpkema, P. R. (1980) 'The organisation of intraspecific agonistic behaviour in the rat' in 'Progress in Neurobiology,' 15, 247-268 Malsbury, C. W. (1971) 'Facilitation of Male Rat Copulatory Behaviour by Electrical Stimulation of the Medial Preoptic Area' in 'Physiology and Behaviour' 7, 797-805 Pfaff, D. & Modianos, D. (1985) 'Neural Mechanisms of Female Reproductive Behaviour' in N. Adler, D. Pfaff & R. W. Goy (eds.) 'Handbook of Behavioural Neurobiology (Volume 7: Reproduction)' (New York: Plenum Press) Pinel, J. P. J. (2003) 'Biopsychology (5th Edition)' (Boston: Allyn & Bacon) Pleim, E. T. & Barfield, R. J. (1988) 'Progesterone Versus Estrogen Facilitation of Female Sexual Behaviour by Intracranial Administration to Female Rats' in 'Hormones and Behaviour' 22, 150-159 Raisman, G. (1997) 'An Urge to Explain the Incomprehensible: Geoffrey Harris and the Discovery of Neural Control of the Pituitary Gland' in 'Annual Review of Neuroscience' 20, 533-566 Sakuma, Y. & Pfaff, D. W. (1979) 'Mesencephalic Mechanisms for the Integration of Female Reproductive Behaviour in the Rat' in 'American Journal of Physiology' 237, 285-290 Schally, A. V., Kastin, A. J. & Arimura, A. (1971) 'Hypothalamic Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinising Hormone (LH) -Regulating Hormone: Structure, Physiology and Clinical Studies' in 'Fertility and Sterility' 22, 703-721 Yang, L-Y. & Clemens, L. G. (2000) 'MPOA Lesions Affect Female Pacing of Copulation in Rats' in 'Behavioural Neuroscience' 114, 1191-1202 1 Pinel, J. P. J. 'Biopsychology' p. 329 2 Pinel, J. P. J. 'Biopsychology' p. 331 ...read more.

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