The Neural Basis of “Being in the Mood”

What determines receptivity or rejection towards potential sexual partners? For people, there are many factors that play a part, appearance, culture, age, are all taken into account. But what part does the internal state of the individual play? The functioning of our bodies is maintained through a complicated system of hormonal signals. Some of these signals vary along different physiological rhythms, such as the menstrual cycle. How do changes in hormone levels affect the activity of individuals' brains and their behavior? "It is well known that the behavior of female mice changes dramatically during the different phases of their reproductive cycle, called the estrous cycle," says Dr. Susana Lima (, a Principal Investigator at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, Portugal. "Responses to brief social interactions with males can result in radically different outcomes, ranging from receptivity to aggression. In this study, we investigated the question--what is the neural basis that underlies these polar behaviors?" The study results were published online on Februay 12, 2015 in Current Biology. The article is entitled, “Enhanced Male-Evoked Responses in the Ventromedial Hypothalamus of Sexually Receptive Female Mice.” The researchers chose to focus their research on the hypothalamus. "The hypothalamus regulates many instinctive behaviors, including feeding, sleeping, and sexual behavior", says Dr. Kensaku Nomoto, a post-doctoral researcher in the laboratory of Susana Lima. "We recorded the activity of neurons in an area within the hypothalamus dedicated to socio-sexual behavior. The activity of the neurons was observed while the females interacted with males or with other females."
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