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Serotonin linked to sexual preference

29th March 2011

Serotonin, a well-known brain chemical, appears to be implicated in sexual preference in mice, according to a recent Chinese study.


Male mice, bred so that their brains do not produce serotonin, seemed to lose their preference for females.

The research team relied on genetic engineering to produce mice that lacked serotonin-producing neurons, as well as ones that lacked a crucial protein.

Whereas typically male mice are quick to mount sexually receptive female mice, the mice in the study did not do so.

Instead, the genetically modified mice seemed to prefer to mount other male mice, using ultrasonic frequencies to sing mating calls to the other male mice.

Experts urged caution around making hasty comparisons between humans and mice, however.

Keith Kendrick, of the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, said that in terms of the findings' relevance to human sexual preference and orientation, people were less influenced by smell than mice.

He said that humans as a species had been using psychoactive drugs which either increased or decreased serotonin function for quite some time, and that while the effects of those drugs on sexual arousal, impulsivity and aggression had often been reported, no effects on sexual preference or orientation had.

In the study, all of the mice whose brains produced serotonin preferred to mount females.

About half of the mice that lacked serotonin preferred to climb onto the back of males, and a further 10% also seemed to prefer the residual scent of males.

Yet the same mice completely changed their behaviour when the researchers found a way to raise serotonin levels artificially, preferring females to males unless the dose was too large.

If the dose of serotonin was too large, the same mice still preferred males to females.

The researchers said that serotonergic signalling was crucial for male sexual preference in mice, and that this was the first time that a neurotransmitter in the brain had been demonstrated to be important in mammalian sexual preference.


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Raghavendra M

Wednesday 30th March 2011 @ 7:23

Does This article/explanation has anything to do with gay/lesbianism that can be attributed to serotonin levels in them.. Also, since the serotonin is directly linked to Migraine, will the sexual preferences be affected/altered in people who often suffer with chronic migraine?

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