Oxytocin: Sexual Function & Response Research Abstracts

We have included a small collection of research abstracts about the relationship between oxytocin levels and sexual function / response in both men and women. For further research, we suggest visiting the US National Library of Medicine / National Institutes of Health website: http://www.pubmed.gov.


Prog Neurobiol. 2009 Jun;88(2):127-51. Epub 2009 Apr 10.
Oxytocin: the great facilitator of life.
Lee HJ, Macbeth AH, Pagani JH, Young WS 3rd.
Section on Neural Gene Expression, NIMH, NIH, DHHS, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.

Oxytocin (Oxt) is a nonapeptide hormone best known for its role in lactation and parturition. Since 1906 when its uterine-contracting properties were described until 50 years later when its sequence was elucidated, research has focused on its peripheral roles in reproduction. Only over the past several decades have researchers focused on what functions Oxt might have in the brain, the subject of this review. Immunohistochemical studies revealed that magnocellular neurons of the hypothalamic paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei are the neurons of origin for the Oxt released from the posterior pituitary. Smaller cells in various parts of the brain, as well as release from magnocellular dendrites, provide the Oxt responsible for modulating various behaviors at its only identified receptor. Although Oxt is implicated in a variety of “non-social” behaviors, such as learning, anxiety, feeding and pain perception, it is Oxt’s roles in various social behaviors that have come to the fore recently. Oxt is important for social memory and attachment, sexual and maternal behavior, and aggression. Recent work implicates Oxt in human bonding and trust as well. Human disorders characterized by aberrant social interactions, such as autism and schizophrenia, may also involve Oxt expression. Many, if not most, of Oxt’s functions, from social interactions (affiliation, aggression) and sexual behavior to eventual parturition, lactation and maternal behavior, may be viewed as specifically facilitating species propagation. PMID: 19482229


J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1987 Jan;64(1):27-31.
Plasma oxytocin increases in the human sexual response.
Carmichael MS, Humbert R, Dixen J, Palmisano G, Greenleaf W, Davidson JM.

The purpose of this study was to determine whether plasma oxytocin (OT) levels change during human sexual responses and, if so, to demonstrate the temporal pattern of change. Plasma OT levels were measured by RIA before, during, and after private self-stimulation to orgasm in normal men (n = 9) and women (n = 13). Blood samples were collected continuously through indwelling venous catheters. The subjects pressed a signal to indicate the start and finish of orgasm/ejaculation. Objective assessment of sexual arousal and orgasm was obtained by measuring blood-pulse amplitude and electromyographic activity, recorded continuously throughout testing from an anal device containing a photoplethysmograph and electromyograph electrodes connected to a polygraph located in an adjacent room. These measures allowed collection of data from men and women of changes in blood flow and muscle activity in the lower pelvic/pubic area. Plasma OT levels increased during sexual arousal in both women and men and were significantly higher during orgasm/ejaculation than during prior baseline testing. We suggest that the temporal pattern of secretion could be related to smooth muscle contractions of the reproductive system during orgasm.  PMID: 3782434


Gynecol Obstet Invest. 1999;47(2):125-6.
The role of oxytocin in relation to female sexual arousal.
Blaicher W, Gruber D, Bieglmayer C, Blaicher AM, Knogler W, Huber JC.
Dept of Gynecology Obstetrics, Div of Gynecological Endocrinology Reproduction Medicine, Univ of Vienna, Austria.

Oxytocin is clearly involved in human reproduction and serves an important role in sexual arousal. Oxytocin serum levels were measured before and after sexual stimulation in 12 healthy women. Values of oxytocin 1 min after orgasm were significantly higher than baseline levels. This finding supports the hypothesis that oxytocin plays a major part in human sexual response both in neuroendocrine function and postcoital behavior. PMID: 9949283


Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Sep;15 Suppl 3:S156-61.
The orgasmic history of oxytocin: Love, lust, and labor.
Magon N, Kalra S. Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Air Force Hospital, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Oxytocin has been best known for its roles in female reproduction. It is released in large amounts during labor, and after stimulation of the nipples. It is a facilitator for childbirth and breastfeeding. However, recent studies have begun to investigate oxytocin’s role in various behaviors, including orgasm, social recognition, bonding, and maternal behaviors. This small nine amino acid peptide is now believed to be involved in a wide variety of physiological and pathological functions such as sexual activity, penile erection, ejaculation, pregnancy, uterine contraction, milk ejection, maternal behavior, social bonding, stress and probably many more, which makes oxytocin and its receptor potential candidates as targets for drug therapy.  PMID: 22029018


Horm Behav. 2002 Mar;41(2):170-7.
Oxytocin maintains as well as initiates female sexual behavior: effects of a highly selective oxytocin antagonist.
Pedersen CA, Boccia ML. Department of Psychiatry CB#7160, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599.

In previous studies, central administration of the oxytocin (OT) antagonist d(CH2)5[Tyr(Me)2, Thr4, Tyr-NH(9)2]OVT (OTA1) blocked receptive and proceptive components of female sexual behavior (FSB) and increased male-directed agonistic behavior when given before progesterone (P) treatment in estradiol-primed female rats but not when given shortly before behavioral testing 4-6 h after P. Because the considerable V(1a) antagonist potency of OTA1 may have contributed to these results, we tested the effects of the far more selective OT antagonist desGly-NH2, d(CH2)5[d-Tyr2, Thr4]OVT (OTA2). In ovariectomized, estradiol benzoate-primed (1 microg x 2 days sc) rats, icv infusion of OTA2 (1 microg) prior to P injection (250 microg sc) significantly suppressed lordosis and hops and darts and trended toward significantly increasing male-directed kicks during testing at 4 and 6 h. Infusion of OTA2 3 h and 40 min after P did not alter behavior at 4 and 6 h after P but significantly decreased lordosis as well as hops and darts and increased male-directed kicks 8-12 h after P. These results provide further evidence that central OT receptor activation shortly after P treatment contributes to the subsequent onset and early expression of FSB and demonstrate, for the first time, that OT receptor activation at later time points also contributes to maintaining FSB. The FSB-stimulating effect of central OT appears to persist for several hours.  PMID: 11855901


Horm Behav. 2005 Feb;47(2):164-9. Epub 2004 Dec 9.
Menstrual cycle-related changes in plasma oxytocin are relevant to normal sexual function in healthy women.
Salonia A, Nappi RE, Pontillo M, Daverio R, Smeraldi A, Briganti A, Fabbri F, Zanni G, Rigatti P, Montorsi F.
Department of Urology, University Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan, Italy.

Circulating levels of the neuro-hypophysial nonapeptide oxytocin increase during sexual arousal and orgasm in both men and women. A few studies have evaluated the effect of the menstrual cycle on plasma oxytocin in normally cycling, sexually active, healthy fertile women using or not using contraceptive pills. In 20 ovulating women and 10 women taking an oral contraceptive (group 1 and group 2, respectively), sexual function, hormonal profile, and plasma oxytocin (OT) were evaluated throughout the menstrual cycle. In group 1, plasma OT was significantly lower during the luteal phase in comparison with both the follicular and ovulatory phases. Plasma oxytocin was significantly correlated with the lubrication domain of the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) during the luteal phase and showed a trend towards statistical significance during the follicular phase. In group 2, plasma OT did not show any significant fluctuation throughout the menstrual cycle, even though a significant correlation was evident with both the arousal and the lubrication domain of the FSFI during the assumption of the contraceptive pill. These findings suggest that plasma OT fluctuates throughout the menstrual cycle in normally cycling healthy fertile women with adequate sexual activity but not taking any oral contraceptive pill. Moreover, plasma OT levels significantly relates to the genital lubrication in both women taking and not taking oral contraceptive pill apparently confirming its role in peripheral activation of sexual function. PMID: 15664019


Zhonghua Nan Ke Xue. 2011 Jun;17(6):558-61.
Oxytocin and male sexual function.
Teng RB, Zhang XH. Institute of Urology and Nephrology, Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, Guangxi 530021, China.

Oxytocin (OT) is a female hormone with the main function of facilitating uterine contraction and milk ejection. Recent studies show that OT is involved in multiple signaling pathways in the central and peripheral nerve system and mainly regulates the physiology and activity of reproduction, including male reproduction and sexual behavior. The roles of OT in penile erection are bio-phasic with proerectile effect in the central nerve system while peripherally inhibiting erection. OT also mediates ejaculation, post-ejaculatory detumescence and the post-orgasm refractory period. OT and OT-receptor in the central nerve system will be a new target in the drug development for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, while OT intracavernous injection promises to be an effective therapy for priapism. This review focuses on the effects of OT on male sexual activities.  PMID: 21735659