Periodic Remodeling in a Neural Circuit Governs Timing of Female Sexual Behavior.
Behaviors are inextricably linked to internal state. We have identified a neural mechanism that links female sexual behavior with the estrus, the ovulatory phase of the estrous cycle. We find that progesterone-receptor (PR)-expressing neurons in the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) are active and required during this behavior. Activating these neurons, however, does not elicit sexual behavior in non-estrus females. We show that projections of PR+ VMH neurons to the anteroventral periventricular (AVPV) nucleus change across the 5-day mouse estrous cycle, with 3-fold more termini and functional connections during estrus. This cyclic increase in connectivity is found in adult females, but not males, and regulated by estrogen signaling in PR+ VMH neurons. We further show that these connections are essential for sexual behavior in receptive females. Thus, estrogen-regulated structural plasticity of behaviorally salient connections in the adult female brain links sexual behavior to the estrus phase of the estrous cycle.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2019.10.025
View details for PubMedID 31735496
Social Control of Hypothalamus-Mediated Male Aggression.
2017; 95 (4): 955–70.e4
How environmental and physiological signals interact to influence neural circuits underlying developmentally programmed social interactions such as male territorial aggression is poorly understood. We have tested the influence of sensory cues, social context, and sex hormones on progesterone receptor (PR)-expressing neurons in the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) that are critical for male territorial aggression. We find that these neurons can drive aggressive displays in solitary males independent of pheromonal input, gonadal hormones, opponents, or social context. By contrast, these neurons cannot elicit aggression in socially housed males that intrude in another male's territory unless their pheromone-sensing is disabled. This modulation of aggression cannot be accounted for by linear integration of environmental and physiological signals. Together, our studies suggest that fundamentally non-linear computations enable social context to exert a dominant influence on developmentally hard-wired hypothalamus-mediated male territorial aggression.
View details for PubMedID 28757304
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5648542