Sex is a biological variable that contributes to the incidence, clinical course, and treatment outcome of brain disorders. Chief among these are disorders associated with the dopamine system. These include Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, schizophrenia, and mood disorders, which show stark differences in prevalence and outcome between men and women. In order to reveal the influence of biological sex as a risk factor in these disorders, there is a critical need to collect fundamental information about basic properties of the dopamine system in males and females. In Long Evans rats, we measured dynamic and static properties related to the mesolimbic dopamine system. Static measures included assessing ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine cell number and volume and expression of tyrosine hydroxylase and dopamine transporter. Dynamic measures in behaving animals included assessing (1) VTA neuronal encoding during learning of a cue-action-reward instrumental task and (2) dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens in response to electrical stimulation of the VTA, vesicular depletion of dopamine, and amphetamine. We found little or no sex difference in these measures, suggesting sexual congruency in fundamental static and dynamic properties of dopamine neurons. Thus, dopamine related sex-differences are likely mediated by secondary mechanisms that flexibly influence the function of the dopamine cells and circuits. Finally, we noted that most behavioral sex differences had been reported in Sprague-Dawley rats and repeated some of the above measures in that strain. We found some sex differences in those animals highlighting the importance of considering strain differences in experimental design and result interpretation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health