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Effects of Forebrain Injury Upon Mating Behavior in Male Pigeons 1)

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Sixteen adult male pigeons were mated with females and pairs were left together until copulation occurred and eggs were laid. The clutch was removed, the sexes were separated and brought together on alternate days when tests for sexual behavior wete conducted. After copulation had occurred in three tests, the male was subjected to removal of part of the forebrain. Following operation, mating tests were continued until copulation reappeared or until 15 negative tests had been given. In the latter instance males were injected with testosterone propionate and tested until they copulated or until 20 mg. of androgen had been administered (10 mg. in one case). Four birds were unilaterally decerebrated. This operation eliminated copulatory responses in all cases. Administration of androgen restored the response in 2 males and when hormone treatment was discontinued mating reactions soon died out. The remaining 2 hemidecerebrates never copulated but did display an increase in various courtship responses under the influence of injected androgen. Bilateral invasion of the forebrain failed to affect sexual behavior in 8 pigeons and eliminated it in 4 others. The birds that failed to copulate after operation suffered more extensive brain injury than did those in which the behavior survived. Only one of the noncopulators resumed mating after androgen treatment. It is suggested that the forebrain contributes to the male's sexual performance by maintaining a high level of responsiveness to sexual stimuli. Coitus may survive postoperatively if the operation is not too severe and if the individual was highly reactive before brain injury. Injections of androgen tend to increase sexual excitability and may therefore revive copulatory ability in brain-operated pigeons provided the preoperative responsiveness was high and the lesion not too extensive.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology and Institute of Human Relations, Yale University

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