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Predator Cat Odors Activate Sexual Arousal Pathways in Brains of Toxoplasma gondii Infected Rats

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Toxoplasma Infection Alters the Limbic Response in Rats Exposed to Cat Odor.

(A) Toxoplasma infected rats spent more time exploring cat urine than uninfected rats. (B) In uninfected animals, female odor induces relatively greater ‘reproductive’ MEApd activity and relatively diminished ‘defensive’ VMHdm activity, as expected. (C) In infected animals, activity levels in the MEApd are the same, regardless of whether exposed to a ‘reproductive’ or ‘defensive’ odor. (D) Neural activity in infected male rats, normalized to uninfected controls, after exposure to cat urine. Infection increased neural activity in the BLA, MEApd and VMHdm. (E) Neural activity in infected male rats, normalized to uninfected controls, after exposure to an estrous female. Infection again increased neural activity in the BLA and VMHdm, but did not change MEApd levels. (F) Toxoplasma infection increased ‘reproductive’ MEApd neural activity during exposure to cat odor, mimicking neural activity in uninfected animals exposed to a female rat. MEApd, posterodorsal medial amygdala; VMHdm, ventromedial hypothalamus, dorsomedial part; BLA, basolateral amygdala. P values listed where appropriate.

Figure 1

doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0023277.g001