Rapid changes in sociosexual behaviors around transition to and from behavioral estrus, in female rats housed in a seminatural environment
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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OriginalversjonBehavioural Processes. 2020, 174:104101, 1-10. 10.1016/j.beproc.2020.104101
Gonadally intact female rats display sexual behaviors only during a portion of the estrus cycle. In standard experimental setups, the on- and offset of sexual behavior is gradual. However, in naturalistic settings, it is almost instantaneous. We assessed the changes in sociosexual behaviors at the beginning and end of behavioral estrus in ovariectomized females treated with ovarian hormones. Rats were housed in a seminatural environment, in groups of three males and four females. We scored female and male behavior during the 8 min preceding and following the first and last lordosis of behavioral estrus. Immediately before the first lordosis, there was a sharp increase in female paracopulatory behaviors whereas the end of estrus was marked by a sudden decrease in these behaviors. There was no systematic change in other female behavior patterns. These data suggest that the display of female paracopulatory behaviors plays a key role. Both during transition into and out of behavioral estrus, most behavioral changes occurred within one minute. The rapid changes must be unrelated to ovarian hormone fluctuations in these ovariectomized females. Perhaps they can be explained in terms of hormone-induced, dynamic (chaotic) changes in the function of critical structures within the brain.