The neurobiology of sexual behavior involves the interrelationships between sex steroids and neurotransmitters that result in both central nervous system (CNS) effects and effects in the genitalia. Tools such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning can help determine what areas of the brain are activated under sexual stimulation. Our understanding of the role of various neurotransmitters, neurosteroids and other CNS-acting compounds is improving. The role of CNS-acting compounds such as dopamine agonists in the treatment of male sexual dysfunction is under active investigation. Melanocortins have CNS and peripheral roles in a wide variety of bodily functions. The melanocortin agonist bremelanotide appears to act in the CNS to promote erections in preclinical models, and may also stimulate behaviors that facilitate sexual activity beyond their erectogenic effects.
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This work was supported by a grant from Palatin Technologies, Inc. Editorial support for the development of this paper was provided by Kevin Kehres.
Dr Shadiack was employed by Palatin until 28 September 2007. She holds stock in Palatin and several patents, and has served as an expert witness for Palatin after leaving the company. Dr Althof is an advisory board member consultant and principal investigator for Palatin. He also serves as a consultant, investigator, advisory board member and/or speakers bureau member for Auxilium, Boehringer Ingelheim, BioSante, Johnson & Johnson, Lilly/ICOS, Pfizer, Palatin and Plethora.
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Shadiack, A., Althof, S. Preclinical effects of melanocortins in male sexual dysfunction. Int J Impot Res 20 (Suppl 1), S11–S16 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/ijir.2008.17
- erectile dysfunction
- CNS-acting agents
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