Erectile function and bulbospongiosus EMG activity in estrogen-maintained castrated rats vary with behavioral context

Gregory M. Holmes, Benjamin D. Sachs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Electromyographic (EMG) activity in the bulbospongiosus muscles (BS) was recorded to monitor potential castration-induced alterations in muscle activity during copulation and reflexive erections. EMG recordings were made from intact male rats and from castrated rats maintained from 7 to 50 days on estradiol benzoate (300 μg/day) or testosterone (200 μg/day). Despite a 40-50% postcastration reduction in the weight of the BS and accessory sexual glands in estrogentreated rats, the pattern of EMG activity during copulation was similar across groups. In estradiol-treated males, the EMG burst frequency during mounts and burst duration during intromissions exceeded the parameters of intact males and of castrated males maintained on testosterone. Between intromissions, and following ejaculatory patterns, estrogen-treated males displayed spontaneous muscle bursts accompanied by visually confirmed erection of the glans penis, but these males quickly lost the capacity for reflexive erections. These data demonstrate that despite castration-induced atrophy of the penile muscles and, presumably, their spinal motor nuclei, the motor output to these muscles is maintained following androgen removal. The capacity for substantial penile erection is retained during copulation long after reflexive erections have diminished.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)406-419
Number of pages14
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1992


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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