Does the brain's 'happy chemical' influence our sexuality? Researchers find blocking serotonin can reverse preferences — (Daily Mail)

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Daily Mail

By Mark Prigg

PUBLISHED: 14:58 GMT, 29 May 2013 | UPDATED: 06:47 GMT, 30 May 2013

  • Chinese researchers found blocking serotonin in female mice caused them to prefer sniffing and mounting females
  • Researchers believe the chemical could be part of ‘chemical chain’ that determines our sexual preference

A chemical usually associated with how happy we feel could also play a pivotal role in our sexual preferences, researchers have discovered.

A Chinese team found that blocking serotonin, known as the brain’s ‘happy chemical’ caused female mice to switch their sexual preferences.

It is the first time that sexual preference has been reversed in animals without sex hormones.

Researchers found that when they blocked the serotonin receptors in female mice, their sexual preferences switched and they tried to mount other females


Serotonin, also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine, is a  neurotransmitter – a chemical substance that transmits nerve impulses across the space between nerve cells or neurons.

It plays an important part in the regulation of learning, mood, sleep and helps control blood vessels.

It has also been linked to anxiety, migraine, vomiting and appetite.

Yi Rao of Peking University in Beijing, China, and his colleagues genetically engineered female mice so that they could no longer make or respond to serotonin.

‘Female mouse mutants lacking either central serotonergic neurons or serotonin prefer female over male genital odors when given a choice, and displayed increased female–female mounting when presented either with a choice of a male and a female target or only with a female target,’ the team wrote in their paper,  which is published in the journal PNAS.