Spinal cord control of ejaculation
- First Online:
- 358 Downloads
Ejaculation is a reflex mediated by a spinal control center, referred to as a spinal ejaculation generator. During intercourse, the spinal ejaculation generator integrates the sensory inputs that are necessary to trigger ejaculation. At the time of ejaculation, it coordinates the sympathetic, parasympathetic, and somatic outflow to induce the two phases of ejaculation, i.e. emission and expulsion. It also provides the brain with signals related to the occurrence of ejaculation. Experimental and clinical data evidenced that these functions were devoted to neurons located in the lumbosacral cord. We recently characterized a population of spinothalamic neurons in the lumbar spinal cord of male rats (LSt cells) that constitutes an integral part of the spinal ejaculation generator. LSt cells send projections to the autonomic nuclei and motoneurons involved in the emission and expulsion phase, and they receive sensory projections from the pelvis. LSt cells are activated with ejaculation, but not following other components of sexual behavior, and lesions of LSt cells completely ablate ejaculatory function. These data support a pivotal role for the LSt cells in the control of ejaculation.