While selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are widely used to treat anxiety and depression, they also produce profound disruptions of sexual function including delayed orgasm/ejaculation. The nucleus paragigantocellularis (nPGi), a primary source of inhibition of ejaculation in male rats, contains receptors for serotonin (5-HT). The ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG) provides serotonin to this region, thus providing an anatomical and neurochemical basis for serotonergic regulation of the nPGi. We hypothesize that 5-HT acting at the nPGi could underlie the SSRI-induced inhibition of ejaculation in rodents. To this end, we produced 5-HT lesions of the source of 5-HT to the nPGi (the vlPAG) and examined sexual behavior. Removing the source of 5-HT to the nPGi facilitated genital reflexes, but not other aspects of sexual behavior, consistent with our hypothesis. Namely, 5-HT lesions produced a significant increase in the mean number of ejaculations and a significant decrease in ejaculation latency as compared to sham lesioned animals, while latency to mating and the post-ejaculatory interval did not differ. These data suggest that the serotonergic vlPAG-nPGi pathway is an important regulatory mechanism for the inhibition of ejaculation in rats, and supports the hypothesis that this circuit contributes to SSRI-induced inhibition of ejaculation.
Normandin, J. J. & Murphy, A. Z. (2011). Serotonergic Lesions of the Periaqueductal Gray, a Primary Source of Serotonin to the Nucleus Paragigantocellularis, Facilitate Sexual Behavior in Male Rats. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 98(3), 369–375. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2011.01.024