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Scheduled Daily Mating Induces Circadian Anticipatory Activity Rhythms in the Male Rat

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Daily schedules of limited access to food, palatable high calorie snacks, water and salt can induce circadian rhythms of anticipatory locomotor activity in rats and mice. All of these stimuli are rewarding, but whether anticipation can be induced by neural correlates of reward independent of metabolic perturbations associated with manipulations of food and hydration is unclear. Three experiments were conducted to determine whether mating, a non-ingestive behavior that is potently rewarding, can induce circadian anticipatory activity rhythms in male rats provided scheduled daily access to steroid-primed estrous female rats. In Experiment 1, rats anticipated access to estrous females in the mid-light period, but also exhibited post-coital eating and running. In Experiment 2, post-coital eating and running were prevented and only a minority of rats exhibited anticipation. Rats allowed to see and smell estrous females showed no anticipation. In both experiments, all rats exhibited sustained behavioral arousal and multiple mounts and intromissions during every session, but ejaculated only every 2–3 days. In Experiment 3, the rats were given more time with individual females, late at night for 28 days, and then in the midday for 28 days. Ejaculation rates increased and anticipation was robust to night sessions and significant although weaker to day sessions. The anticipation rhythm persisted during 3 days of constant dark without mating. During anticipation of nocturnal mating, the rats exhibited a significant preference for a tube to the mating cage over a tube to a locked cage with mating cage litter. This apparent place preference was absent during anticipation of midday mating, which may reflect a daily rhythm of sexual reward. The results establish mating as a reward stimulus capable of inducing circadian rhythms of anticipatory behavior in the male rat, and reveal a critical role for ejaculation, a modulatory role for time of day, and a potential confound role for uncontrolled food intake.
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Landry GJ, Opiol H, Marchant EG, Pavlovski I, Mear RJ, et al. (2012) Scheduled Daily Mating Induces Circadian Anticipatory Activity Rhythms in the Male Rat. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40895. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040895
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Scheduled Daily Mating Induces Circadian Anticipatory Activity Rhythms in the Male Rat
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