Pain reduces sexual motivation in female but not male mice

Melissa A. Farmer, Alison Leja, Emily Foxen-Craft, Lindsey Chan, Leigh C. MacIntyre, Tina Niaki, Mengsha Chen, Josiane C S Mapplebeck, Vanessa Tabry, Lucas Topham, Melissa Sukosd, Yitzchak M. Binik, James G. Pfaus, Jeffrey S. Mogil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Chronic pain is often associated with sexual dysfunction, suggesting that pain can reduce libido. We find that inflammatory pain reduces sexual motivation, measured via mounting behavior and/or proximity in a paced mating paradigm, in female but not male laboratory mice. Pain was produced by injection of inflammogens zymosan A (0.5 mg/ml) or λ-carrageenan (2%) into genital or nongenital (hind paw, tail, cheek) regions. Sexual behavior was significantly reduced in female mice experiencing pain (in all combinations); male mice similarly treated displayed unimpeded sexual motivation. Pain-induced reductions in female sexual behavior were observed in the absence of sex differences in pain-related behavior, and could be rescued by the analgesic, pregabalin, and the libido-enhancing drugs, apomorphine and melanotan-II. These findings suggest that the well known context sensitivity of the human female libido can be explained by evolutionary rather than sociocultural factors, as female mice can be similarly affected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5747-5753
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number17
StatePublished - 2014


  • Motivation
  • Paced mating
  • Pain
  • Sex difference
  • Sexual behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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