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Central Regulation of Autonomic Functions$
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Ida J. Llewellyn-Smith and Anthony J. M. Verberne

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195306637

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195306637.001.0001

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Autonomic Regulation of Sexual Function

Autonomic Regulation of Sexual Function

(p.366) 20 Autonomic Regulation of Sexual Function
Central Regulation of Autonomic Functions

Lesley Marson

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the autonomic and somatic pathways and neurotransmitters in the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves that regulate sexual function in males and females. The reflex mechanisms mediating erection, emission and ejaculation are discussed. In females, what is currently known about genital responses, such as genital (vaginal) arousal and orgasmic-like responses, as well as lordosis, the hormone dependent sexual behavior response, are discussed. Coordination of central and peripheral inputs within spinal cord pathways are necessary for the expression of these genital responses; and ejaculation, for example is regulated by a spinal pattern generator. Neuroanatomical, imaging and neurophysiological methods have provided valuable insights into the excitatory and inhibitory regulation of genital responses. Sexual reflexes in both sexes involve a highly interconnected neural system that is modulated by gonadal steroid hormones and multiple neurotransmitters.

Keywords:   erection, ejaculation, genital arousal, spinal pattern generator, sexual reflexes, spinal cord, orgasm, brain

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