Serial neurochemical measurement of cerebrospinal fluid during the human sexual response cycle

Tillmann H.C. Krüger, Boris Schiffer, Matthias Eikermann, Philip Haake, Elke Gizewski, Manfred Schedlowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Recent studies examining the neuroendocrine response pattern underlying the human sexual response cycle revealed transient activation of the sympathoadrenal system and a substantial, long-lasting increase in plasma prolactin concentrations following orgasm in men and women. Prolactin has been discussed as being part of a feedback mechanism that signals centers in the central nervous system, such as the dopaminergic system controlling sexual arousal. To further elucidate the central role of neuropeptides, biogenic monoamines and neurotransmitters in human sexual behavior, a serial cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)-sampling technique was implemented using a previously established experimental paradigm for sexual activity in a laboratory setting. In parallel with peripheral endocrine measures, lumbar CSF was drawn via an indwelling spinal catheter during the sexual response cycle in 10 healthy males and 10 age-matched controls, and analysed for prolactin, oxytocin, biogenic monoamines and/or their metabolites as well as inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitter concentrations. Parallel to raised peripheral sympathetic activity, norepinephrine also increased in CSF during audiovisual, masturbation-induced sexual arousal and orgasm, and remained elevated for the remainder of the session (F4,72 = 8.79, P = 0.000). In contrast, none of the other measures, in particular prolactin and dopamine or its metabolites, reflected significant alteration. In conclusion, the human sexual response cycle is characterized by an increase in sympathetic activity in plasma and CSF, and by pronounced secretion of plasma prolactin after orgasm. However, alterations in dopaminergic or peptidergic activity are not found in lumbar CSF, possibly due to local and restricted release in diencephalic and mesencephalic brain regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3445-3452
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine
  • Prolactin
  • Sexual arousal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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