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October 23, 2011

Glutamate Increase Elicits a Genital Response

Ever since I was a little kid, whether I was in sex ed., at home or at a friends house, there was some voice telling me that men are stimulated visually. There is no doubt in my mind this is true. Just walk down the magazine isle at a grocery store, or flip on the TV for more than ten minutes. Most women are displayed wearing next to nothing, whether in a bikini or revealing clothing. All of this is done in an attempt to sell the product. Its no wonder a lot of marketing companies are under the impression that sex sells, because it really does. But why? It cant be that men are simply sex hungry pigs, who only see women as objects of their pleasure. Maybe that is true for some of us, but there has to be something more going on. What even controls this sex drive in men and how is it increased or decreased by our outside environment?

Note: For the purpose of this article we are going to be talking about the sexual experience from a heterosexual viewpoint. It can be applied across any type of sexual relationship, but the premise for this research is based on heterosexual coupling.

Todays research on the male sex drive points to the medial preoptic area (MPOA), which is found in the hypothalamus. The MPOA is seen as the critical regulatory site for the control of male sex behavior. The MPOA does play a role the female sex behavior, but is reported to be larger in males than in females. In a paper titled Preoptic Glutamate Facilitates Male Sexual Behavior, Juan Dominguez and his colleagues at Florida State University take a stab at the neurological basis for the male sex drive. What they did was measure glutamate levels in the MPOA, before, during and after copulation in male rats. Their results showed that when the female was presented (the rats received a visual stimulus), the extracellular glutamate levels rose 140% of the baseline level. During the actual time of sex the glutamate levels rose 170% of the baseline level, and during the time of ejaculation, the glutamate levels rose an astonishing 300% of the baseline level. Immediately after ejaculation, glutamate levels decreased rapidly. Dominguez and his researches tied the fall in glutamate to the length that the individual remained at inactive or at rest after the time of ejaculation.

So why does any of this matter? Well when trying to tackle the male sex drive, this information is important. What women wear and how they present themselves has an effect on how men think and how their body reacts. A scantily clad woman can elicit an extracellular glutamate increase and an overall increased sex drive. This can have huge implications on the behavior of that individual. Now the sex drive is not only increased by the feelings the individual may experience in response to the stimulus, but has actual physical implications. Dominguez concludes his research by saying that glutamate in the MPOA can elicit genital reflexes in anesthetized rats.

I believe that there is some level of control that men have on their sexual behaviors, but mens bodys neurologically respond automatically, whether they like it or not. So ladies, the next time you are getting ready to go out, putting on perfume and deciding what to wear, realize that what you put on is part of how you want to be perceived. The actions you make, whether you flirt and tease or spend your night reserved and in conversation, alter the sex drive of men. In other words, men are going to neurologically respond according to the stimulus put in front of them. If you want to increase his sex drive, do not wear very much and touch him a lot, as he will most likely be hoping to hit that 300% of baseline. But if not, you can help control his sex drive by dressing and acting accordingly. Just as was stated to me my whole life, men are visual beings.

This is in no way a justification for the cases in which men have disrespected and abused women because what men experience and how they respond to it are two very different things. But there is a definite benefit in understanding the neuroscience behind what spurs on the male sex drive and how that can be maintained and regulated by outside stimuli.

Dominguez, Juan M., Mario Gil and Elaine M. Hull, Preoptic Glutamate Facilitates Male Sexual Behavior, Journal of Neuroscience (2006): 1699-1703;
Posted by      anthony b. at 5:27 PM MDT


  Christina U.  says:
Mr. Baldassari,

I noticed that the only neurotransmitter that was monitored in this experiment was glutamate. Were there other articles that tested different excitatory neurotransmitters to see if the same response was elicited? I am merely curious because this is rather informative, but if there are multiple factors in play then these results could be inconclusive.
Posted on Sun, 23 Oct 2011 5:44 PM MDT by Christina U.
  anthony b.  says:
I wouldn't surprise me if there are multiple factors here. It would be naive to say that the sex drive is 100% determined by glutamate levels in the peroptic region. I am sure there are multiple factors that tie into it. This article specifically talked about glutamate, which is different from the usual dopamine talk and reward pathway with the VTA, etc. I am not sure if there are other articles. I can look into it for you. But yes it was a cool article, I really enjoyed it.
Posted on Sun, 23 Oct 2011 7:02 PM MDT by anthony b.
  Christina U.  says:
Don't go hunting up articles, I can do the leg work for my own questions. I just whimsically hoped that you might have found a lot of articles and chose this one to blog about. It would be nice, as you said, if it was only determined by glutamate, though.
Posted on Sun, 23 Oct 2011 7:34 PM MDT by Christina U.
  Gino C.  says:
Very interesting article. I beg to wonder how much of this neurological response is due to social reinforcement vs. biological predisposition. I feel as far as sex drive, men might be more open and more social accepted for verbalizing and attending to their drive, but I feel women are not that far off as far as drive goes. I also question how the value of glutamate vary with pre vs post ejaculation and how that relates to Automatic Nervous system. Because all and all ejaculation is a ANS response

For example, Spinal cord injury has a greater impact on sexual and reproductive function in men than it does in women. Most spinal cord injured women remain fertile and can conceive and bear children. Even those with severe injury may well retain orgasmic function, although many lose some if not all of their ability to reach satisfaction.

Depending on the level of injury, men may have problems with erections and ejaculation, and most will have compromised fertility due to decreased motility of their sperm.
Posted on Fri, 28 Oct 2011 11:40 AM MDT by Gino C.
  anthony b.  says:
The article talked about post ejaculation and the quantity of the fall in glutamate is responsible for the time between the next ejaculation. Interesting questions. I'm sure there is some aspect of both genetics and social reinforcement involved. I don't think most men had to learn how to be sexual. There is just something inside of us that makes us have a keen sense and drive towards sex and its feelings. But definitely the social aspect can encourage or discourage it, depending on your experiences. But I don't think just glutamate provides the entire store, but yeah they didn't connect it to the Autonomic nervous system. I would be interested to know as well.
Posted on Fri, 28 Oct 2011 1:09 PM MDT by anthony b.
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