Nervous Pathway Eliciting Reproductive Behaviour - Anatomy & Physiology

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  • Reproductive behaviour can only take place if the neurons in the hypothalamus have been sensitized to respond to sensory signals.


  • Testosterone is aromatized to oestradiol in the brain. Oestradiol promotes reproductive behaviour.
  • Testosterone is produced in small episodes every 4-6 hours.
  • Relatively constant supply of testosterone, thus oestradiol, to the hypothalamus in the male.
  • This allows the male to initiate reproductive behaviour at any time.


  • Only experiences high oestradiol during the follicular phase.
  • Will only display sexual receptivity during oestrus.

Generic Neural Pathway for Sexual Behaviour

  • Under the influence of oestrogen, sensory inputs such as olfaction, audition, vision and tactility send neural messages to the hypothalamus .
  • Sensory afferent neurons synapse directly on neurons in the ventromedial and pre-optic hypothalamic regions.
  • These sensory inputs cause neurons in the hypothalamus to release behaviour specific peptides that serve as neurotransmitters.
  • Neurotransmitters act on neurons in the midbrain.
  • Neurons in the midbrain serve as receiving zones for the peptides produced by hypothalamic neurons.
  • Midbrain translated neuropeptide signals into a fast response.
  • Neurons in the midbrain synapse with neurons in the brain stem (medulla).
  • Nervous signals are integrated in the medulla.
  • From the medulla, nerve tracts extend to the spinal cord where nerves synapse with motor neurons that innervate muscles that cause lordosis and mounting.