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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 08/29/02
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Researchers Discover Spinal Cord Neurons Controlling Male Sexual Reflexes

Cincinnati--In the August 30th edition of Science magazine, researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) Medical Center report that they have identified a group of cells found in the lumbar portion of the spinal cord (lower back) that generates ejaculation. Lique Coolen, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology & Anatomy at the Vontz Center for Molecular Studies at UC said, "A better understanding of how these cells control ejaculation may lead to better treatments in the future for conditions such as premature ejaculations and the ejaculatory function in men who have been paralyzed through a traumatic injury to the spine."

William Truitt, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Coolen's lab, who coauthored the research findings. He said, "We tested the significance of a group of cells in the rat lumbar spinal cord for the control of male sexual behavior. Removal of these cells resulted in a complete loss of ejaculation, although other components of sexual behavior remained intact."

Dr. Coolen said, "These results suggest that this group of spinal cord cells is essential for ejaculation and form a critical part of a spinal ejaculation generator." The existence of such an ejaculation generator has been long hypothesized, based on observations that the ejaculation reflex remains intact in animals and humans with spinal cord injury. However, the anatomical site of such a generator was unknown.

"Our finding is a critical step towards understanding how the spinal cord controls ejaculation," she added. Dr. Coolen cautioned that development of clinical treatments is a long way off. "Further research needs to be done to investigate if these neurons also exist in the human spinal cord," she said. Science is the weekly journal for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Web site for the magazine is

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