A series of experiments was conducted to determine the contributions of hormonal status, test condition, and sexual experience to the display of partner preference by female rats. Preference for a sexually active male rat over a sexually receptive female rat was assessed in independent groups of female rats tested in a condition limiting physical contact (No Contact) and a condition allowing for sexual interaction (Contact). Although hormonal status and test condition influenced the preference for a sexually active male, repeated testing and sexual experience had no effect. Experiment 1 demonstrated that independent of test condition, preference for the male is stronger in estrogen- and progesterone-primed rats than in rats receiving the vehicle. Moreover, independent of hormone condition, rats tested in the No Contact condition exhibit a stronger preference for the male than rats tested in the Contact condition, reflecting in part the active pacing of mating stimulation by sexually receptive rats tested in the Contact condition. Experiment 2 showed that the overall pattern of partner preference in proestrous and diestrous rats was similar to that observed in ovariectomized, estrogen- and progesterone-primed, and oil-treated rats, respectively. In Experiment 3, rats primed with estrogen alone did not exhibit a preference for the male even though fully receptive. Experiments 4 and 5 demonstrated that sexual experience does not affect the expression of preference for the male in estrogen- and progesterone-primed rats. The present findings demonstrate that the female rat's preference for the male is stable across repeated tests and is not affected by sexual experience. Our results also confirm that gonadal hormones influence the expression of a preference for a sexually active male versus a sexually receptive female and demonstrate that the magnitude of preference is modulated by test conditions.
Hormones and Behavior – Elsevier
Published: May 1, 2004
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