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A neural circuit for male sexual behavior and reward


Authors: Daniel W. Bayless, Chung-ha O. Davis, Renzhi Yang, Yichao Wei, Vinicius Miessler de Andrade Carvalho, Joseph R. Knoedler, Taehong Yang, Oscar Livingston, Akira Lomvardas, Gabriela J. Martins, Ana Mafalda Vicente, Jun B. Ding, Liqun Luo, Nirao M. Shah
Publication: Cell
Date: August 11, 2023
Link to article: https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(23)00798-5


A study conducted by Bayless et al. explores the neural basis of innate male sexual behavior and its rewarding nature. Using nVista for calcium imaging and fiber photometry, the researchers identified a developmentally wired neural circuit crucial for male mating. This circuit connects chemosensory input to BNSTprTac1 neurons, which in turn connect to POATacr1 neurons projecting to motor control and reward centers. Epistasis experiments confirmed the hierarchical relationship, with BNSTprTac1 neurons upstream of POATacr1 neurons. The release of substance P by BNSTprTac1 neurons upon mate recognition was found to enhance POATacr1 neuron activation through Tacr1, initiating mating behavior. Activation of POATacr1 neurons induced mating even in sexually satiated males and elicited dopamine release, establishing its rewarding nature and prompting self-stimulation. In summary, the study unveils a neural circuit governing multiple facets of innate male sexual behavior, including motor displays, drive, and reward, shedding light on the molecular mechanisms underlying these processes.

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