Electromyographic analysis of male rat perineal muscles during copulation and reflexive erections

Gregory M. Holmes, William D. Chapple, Robert E. Leipheimer, Benjamin D. Sachs

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130 Scopus citations


Anatomical examination of the ventral bulbospongiosus (BS) muscle suggested that its proximal and distal portions may act during penile erection as a two-stage pump governing the intensity of glans erections. The coordination between these portions of the BS, and of the proximal BS with the ischiocavernosus (IC) muscle, was studied using electromyographic (EMG) recordings taken during copulation and reflexive erections. Mounts without intromission were accompanied by either strong IC activity with little or no proximal BS activity, or strong proximal BS activity preceding the onset of IC activity. Activity in the proximal BS during mounts was variable in both duration and amplitude but uniform in frequency. During mounts with intromission, EMG activity of the proximal BS consisted of two characteristic phases, an early phase of low-amplitude activity which was similar to proximal BS activity during nonintromissive mounts, followed by an intromissive phase of high-amplitude, high-frequency activity. During intromission patterns, IC activity reliably preceded proximal BS activity. Ejaculations were accompanied by stronger proximal BS activity than were other copulatory events and were followed by a series of proximal BS and IC bursts lasting for 10-20 seconds. During reflexive erections, EMG activity in the proximal BS was always fusiform and varied with the intensity of erection only in frequency. In contrast to the proximal BS, activity in the distal BS was similar in frequency and amplitude across copulatory and reflexive events. These findings suggest that: a) different motoneuron pools serve the different portions of the BS muscle; b) the distal BS does not differentially affect glans erection but may serve primarily to promote rigidity of the portion of the bulb that it surrounds, while the proximal BS acts as the variable aspect of a hypothetical two-stage pump, and c) activity in the IC must precede activity in the proximal BS to achieve intromission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1235-1246
Number of pages12
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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