In this research, I propose to investigate the neuronal circuitry underlying reproductive behaviors. The specific phenomenon studied here, reflexive release of luteinizing hormone (RRLH), occurs in males of various species including mice and humans. RRLH is the release of luteinizing hormone into the blood stream in response to sensory detection of female stimuli. The chemosensory inputs that mediate RRLH in mice are detected by the vomeronasal organ, and relayed via the accessory olfactory bulb, and the vomeronasal amygdala, to the hypothalamic gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons. This small neuronal population is the final brain stage controlling RRLH as well as many other aspects of reproductive function in both males and females of many species. Until recently, it was not possible to investigate the role of GnRH neurons in this and other vomeronasal system mediated phenomena. This was due to the technical difficulties of targeting specific GnRH neurons and stimulating the vomeronasal system in-vivo. Here I propose to apply a novel experimental system that I recently developed for in-vivo stimulus delivery to the vomeronasal system, and combine it with in-vivo electrophysiology and optogenetics, to test the function of GnRH neurons and of the preceding vomeronasal brain stages in RRLH. The current research promises to provide the first direct physiological recording of mammalian GnRH neurons in vivo, to reveal how they are modulated by sensory stimuli and to identify their direct effects on reproductive physiology. From a different perspective, GnRH neurons are used as a focal point for studying the information processing related to an ethologically relevant reproductive phenomenon in multiple brain regions.
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