A research team from New York has discovered in mice that a small group of neurons, brain cells which responds to oxytocin hormone are key in controlling the sexual behavior.
Oxytocin is already known to be the main hormone for its role in sexual relations. Thus called ‘love hormone.’
After switching off the discovered neurons, the mice were not showing any signs of sexual attraction to males.
The neurons are said to be located in the prefrontal Cortex. The area prefrontal cortex is already known as an important part which controls the social behavior, personality and learning ability.
The researchers said when the oxytocin hormone was withheld and the cells were silenced, the interest in mating was lost by females during estrus.
Once released, the females were seen to be showing normal interest in the males.
Nathaniel Heintz, the co-author of the study and also a professor in Rockefeller University in New York was excited about the study. He said the discovery was big because the cells which were discovered were very specific and small population.
Dr Heintz said, “It doesn’t mean it’s uniquely responsible because the hormone acts in several important places in the brain but it does show that this particular cell type is required for this aspect of female social behaviour.”
In order to silence the specific neurons, the researchers used certain toxins which blocks their activity of transmitting the signals.
Professor Gareth Leng from the University of Edinburg said, “Oxytocin seems to be able to alter the way that certain groups of neurons talk to each other – effectively rewiring neural circuits – not a physical rewiring, but a functional rewiring.”
He also said, “Oxytocin seems to be acting not like a conventional neurotransmitter, but more like a hormone within the brain itself.”
The research is published in the journal Cell.