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Marisela Hernández González, Ph.D.

Claudia Amezcua, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Neurophysiology of Reproductive Behavior Laboratory

Laboratory director: Dra. Marisela Hernández González
e-mail: mariselh@cencar.udg.mx, mariselhg@yahoo.com

Associate researcher: Dr. Claudia del Carmen Amezcua Gutiérrez
e-mail: camezcu@cencar.udg.mx

Sexual and maternal behaviors are reproductive conducts that are fundamental to species survival. Both are motivated behaviors that depend on adequate neural, hormonal and sensorial functioning. Today, we have ample knowledge concerning the hormonal changes associated with the processes of the estral and menstrual cycle, gestation, birth, and lactation in both rats and humans; however, many gaps remain regarding the neural substrate involved, especially in relation to the brain structures that participate in the processing and assignment of incentive value to maternally- and sexually-relevant sensory stimuli. There is evidence from imaging studies that suggests the participation of structures of the mesolimbic system in human sexual and maternal activation, but in order to obtain an approach with greater temporal resolution, the electroencephalographic technique has constituted a better choice for determining cerebral functioning in a precise temporal relation to the performance of behaviors and physiological states of motivation and activation, both sexual and maternal. Using electroencephalographic recordings of behavior and multi-neuronal activity, researchers at the Neurophysiology of Reproductive Behavior Laboratory carry out diverse experiments designed to determine: a) the functionality of various structures of the mesolimbic system during motivational states and the performance of sexual and maternal behaviors in rats; b) cerebral functionality in relation to the detection and processing of maternally- and sexually-relevant stimuli in rats and humans; c) the effect of alcohol on patterns of development of indexes related to the sexual maturation of male rats, and the functioning of different sub-cortical structures in rats and cortical structures in humans, based on procedures that involve the forced and voluntary ingestion of this drug; and, d) the effect of the stimulation emitted by babies on cerebral electrical activity and the performance of cognitive tasks in women who are biological or adoptive mothers, with or without maternal experience.

The principal interest in the aforementioned areas of research lies in determining the neural bases and degree of electroencephalographic coupling manifested by the different structures of the dopaminergic mesolimbic system during states of sexual and maternal motivation and activation.

The variety of projects derived from these research areas have been conducted primarily by using the electroencephalographic technique, though researchers also carry out experiments with labyrinths, histological techniques, and temporary inactivation (by administering tetrodotoxin) to determine the participation of such structures as the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala in memory tasks that employ sexual conduct as a reward, and in regulating penile erection in rats. In addition to these activities, and as a means of evaluating the cerebral functionality associated with cognitive and motivational-emotional processes in humans, scales of sexual activation and maternal attachment are utilized, together with questionnaires and neuropsychological tests that allow us to ascertain the relation between physiological states, cognitive processes and cerebral activity.