Sex drives of mice and women

Researchers attempt to pinpoint what gets women (and female rodents) in the mood.

Published August 15, 2007 10:40PM (EDT)

Oh, this gave me a good laugh. A week ago, I came across an article with a headline declaring: "Sex Drive in Brain, Not Hormones, Study Suggests." Then today, I came across this headline: "Report: Testosterone Patch Improves Sexual Desire in Women." Well ... which is it?

The brains-not-hormones article reports on a study that found mutated female mice without a fully functioning vomeronasal organ (the gizmo that helps mice process pheromones) became naughty little nymphos. They also began simulating typical male mating behaviors like pelvic thrusts and mounting. These mutant female mice also rejected maternal behavior. "Our work suggests that neuronal circuits underlying male-specific behaviors develop and persist in the female mouse brain, but are repressed by the normal activity of the vomeronasal organ," researcher Catherine Dulac told Live Science.

But to return to the article's deceptively conclusive headline, human beings don't actually have a vomeronasal organ; sexually, we rely much more on sight than smell. Still, Dulac says the findings make "you wonder if humans also contain both sets of neural circuitry in the brain, and if something other than odors is responsible for determining which set we'll use as we grow up."

Moving on to that second article, which covers a study of real, live human beings: Researchers rounded up 132 postmenopausal women experiencing a low sex drive; they were outfitted with either a testosterone patch or a placebo patch for six months. Women on the testosterone patch were 2.4 times more likely to report a noticeable boost in their sex drive compared with those on the placebo, so researchers concluded that testosterone could be key in boosting lagging libidos.

Ultimately, what can we conclude from all this? We need more research!

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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