Females seeking a sex partner can tell whether males experienced stress during adolescence

January 5, 2017, Binghamton University
Nicole Cameron, assistant professor of psychology at Binghamton University, State University of New York. Credit: Jonathan Cohen/Binghamton University

Sexual preference is influenced by males' adolescent social stress history and social status, according to a research team including Nicole Cameron, assistant professor of psychology at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Cameron, along with Cheryl McCormick from Brock University in Ontario, Canada, tested the hypotheses that in adolescence decreases the "attractiveness" of male rats as sexual partners and that dominance status is a protective factor against the effects of social stress, when it comes to finding a sexual partner. The team's main prediction was that would spend more time with control males than stressed males, and that this bias would be greater for submissive than for dominant rats.

The team subjected a group of male rats to social stress during adolescence, forcing the rats to change cage-partners regularly and establish their dominance in a group over and over. The team then placed a female into a mating chamber with one male who was stressed during adolescence and one who wasn't stressed, doing this with dominant and for subordinate rats separatly.

Among dominant pairs, female rats preferred the stressed males, spending more time with and visiting them more often. Among submissive pairs, females spent more time with control males than with social stress males. The results show that experience of stress in adolescence leads to long-lasting changes in males that are perceptible to females, are moderated by and influence sexual behavior.

"What we found was that of the dominant animals, the animals that were stressed during adolescence were more sexually favored by the female. But in the subordinate animals, the animals that were stressed during adolescence were not favored anymore. So, not only is the female capable of selecting partners as a function of social stressors that they have during adolescence, but she can tell which animal is subordinate and which animal is dominant when she gets tested, and she gets to choose between the two of them," said Cameron.

"Basically a female rat can identify who are dominant animals and who has been stressed during adolescence, and she will go toward the male that reacted the best to the stressor by being dominant in his cage. The male that was stressed during adolescence and is a submissive animal is really the loser, because the female will not go toward him as much. If a male received a social stressor during adolescence but survived this and became a dominant animal, the female is more likely to like this male compared to the control male that didn't suffer stress. But animals that suffer stress and became a submissive animal, that makes him a double loser, and the female will not spend time with him."

According to Cameron, this is the first time that researchers have studied the effects of social stress and the establishment of dominance, on female choice for a partner in rodents.

"Research has shown this in monkeys, but this is the first time that somebody has shown the impact of social stressors on dominance hierarchy in males and their impact on mating in rodents," said Cameron. "We showed that, yes, the dominance established after social stress really determines who will mate and who will not."

Cameron thinks that the results could lead to a better understanding of the effects of environmental stress on human reproduction.

"A lot of people are not capable of having children on their own, or it's difficult to do that. It's possible that environmental stressors are one of the variables that influence capacity for people to have children on their own," she said. "I think that this study is translational because it can lead us to a better understanding of the reproductive axis functions in mammals, including humans."

Cameron and her colleagues want to look at animals that have received low level of maternal care, and on top of that give them social stress, and find out what is going to happen to those animals later in life, not just at the level of reproduction but also in terms of learning and memory.

The paper, "The of is influenced by males' adolescent social stress history and social status," was published in Hormones and Behavior.

Explore further: Fish sperm race for reproductive success

More information: Cheryl M. McCormick et al, The sexual preference of female rats is influenced by males' adolescent social stress history and social status, Hormones and Behavior (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2016.12.001

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3.4 / 5 (7) Jan 05, 2017
What what a stretch to justify this sort of play as work research by claiming it might explain why human couples might have trouble conceiving.

Keep this up in the age of Trump, and we're going to see science budgets savaged using pointless, hard to justify research like this as justification.

While it makes sense to use rats for medical research, it becomes comically absurd to use them to understand the human mind. As much as we share as mammals our minds are simply too different for rats to be useful in learning about our own conditioning especially since all that is learned is as a result of rats being in extremely controlled conditions. That's something that save for prisons is not equatable among humans.
3 / 5 (3) Jan 05, 2017
money...cheese....would crush this ' research.'
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 05, 2017
the human mind
We dont have minds we have brains. And our brains exist for the sole purpose of conveying genes from one gen to the next, just like the rest of us.

Because of competition among equals, this has become a very complex endeavor. But as the study above shows, female genes have gotten very adept at discerning quality.
money...cheese....would crush this ' research.'
Money isnt always a dependable indicator of quality. Our genes are much better at choosing suitable mates than we are.

The male formula for success is to impregnate as many females as possible. A female has much more time and effort invested in each pregnancy and therefore wants to choose the best possible donor for each and every child she wishes to bear.

And per the article the best way to judge coping mechanisms in a male is to pit him against other males, or to ascertain in some fashion how he has fared in past competition.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 05, 2017
You are WAY OFF the mark Otto.
You have made a very common mistake.

Most humans only have a few children. I'd hazard a guess that 99% of Sex in humans is for pure PLEASURE, and NOTHING TO DO WITH REPRODUCTION.

Go on Otto, count the amount of children YOU have, vs the amount of partners you have had, or the amount of times you have had sex.

Now factor in homosexuality, and it's quite clear the mind ENJOYS the pleasure and intimacy of sex.

Finding a mate ATTRACTIVE is way more complex than the simple "make babies" argument.

Jan 06, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 06, 2017
Most humans only have a few children. I'd hazard a guess that 99% of Sex in humans is for pure PLEASURE, and NOTHING TO DO WITH REPRODUCTION
We're tropical animals that evolved in an environment of high attrition rates. Our repro rate developed to compensate. Reproduction is so pleasurable precisely because it is so important. Groups that didn't grow as fast as their competition did not survive.

You cannot separate sex from conception. They are 2 parts of one thing. But regarding non-procreative sex, many species have evolved methods of coping with overpopulation. Rabbit females in overcrowded warrens will absorb unborn fetuses. Firstborn chicks will push unmatched eggs out of the nest. Infanticide is rife.

It is not unreasonable to consider whether gaydom and anorexia are epigenetic responses to perceived overcrowding, or that oral and anal sex were the first contraceptives apart from their obvious role in sharing the microbiome.
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 06, 2017
In addition to our tropical repro rate, the size of the human head makes bearing children painful and dangerous. The older a woman gets the more she will fear and resist pregnancy, and want to offer her partner alternatives.

Further, the religions that have survived are the ones best designed to outgrow and overrun their competitors. Women in these cultures are compelled to make babies until it kills them.

Up until very recently most forms of non-procreative sex were considered serious crimes because the formula for filling up colonies, overwhelming indigenes, and spreading western culture was a religious one. 'Be fruitful and multiply, fill up the earth (with more of us and fewer of them)".

But the world is now full and the emphasis has shifted from quantity to quality. The new world order is female. They now have the freedom in the west to decide when or if to bear.

And this explains why sex is now a pleasant pastime rather than the sacred duty it used to be.
3 / 5 (2) Jan 06, 2017
most humans only have a few children
If you had bothered to look this up you wouldn't have said it.

One quarter of all US pregnancies are aborted. One half in Russia. This in addition to the hundreds of millions that have been prevented entirely.

We might say that the rockefeller foundation was solely responsible for preventing ww3.
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 06, 2017
I lost a lot of the above post in between refs on edit. I wish physorg would fix this.

At any rate, ONE BILLION ABORTIONS since ww2.

-One fifth the world's population and their descendents to the 2nd and 3rd generation, never born.

And in my first post 'unmatched' per spellcheck is 'unhatched'.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2017
Soviet science went through a period of this when all science was made subordinate to politics. Very little of any use was discovered or created in this time. Before now, reason 'trumped' tomfoolery but now in the age of 'Trump', foolish dogma will substitute for reason. The lights are going out all over America and soon the rest of the world, and will not be re-lit for a long time. Already the papers portend revenge for 'lese Presidential majeste' will become a real threat to real careers.

This research will be used to justify muscular inferiority as 'unfitness to reproduce' no matter what the mental capacity. Like the old cartoon in the muscle adds about the 90 pound weakling who had sand kicked into his eyes by the 'jocks'. By that standard, we would have had to do without Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Even Theodore Roosevelt was a weakling as a child. Same with George Washington Carver.
Da Schneib
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 07, 2017
Bah, all adolescent humans experience stress during puberty.

Tell us something we don't know.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2017
Soviet science went through a period of this when all science was made subordinate to politics. Very little of any use was discovered or created in this time. Before now, reason 'trumped' tomfoolery but now in the age of 'Trump', foolish dogma will substitute for reason
Ahaahaaaaa how quickly they forget about tabula rasa and associated sociopolitical propaganda. Jealousy doesn't exist did you know it? At least not in your own personal safe space I assume.
Bah, all adolescent humans experience stress during puberty
Not Ferris Buehler. He was a winner.
not rated yet Jan 08, 2017
What is the purpose of a psychologist posing with a microscope? Is she looking for males?
not rated yet Jan 09, 2017
I don't know about rats but in my limited and personal human experience the first adult sexual experience can set the stage for the rest of one's life. If it happens to be "abnormal" the result may well be unable to produce children due to the physical constraints. In the case of women, when a forceful sex experience first occurs it affects the subject for life in an adverse way. So what else that is new can we learn from this rat experiment?

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