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Functional and Dysfunctional Sexual Behavior - A Synthesis of Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology; Anders Agmo (Academic PRess, 2007)

Functional and Dysfunctional Sexual Behavior - A Synthesis of Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology; Anders Agmo (Academic PRess, 2007)

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Published by Ylla

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Ylla on Sep 22, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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For a long time I was fascinated by trying to understand the behavioral, endocrineand neural mechanisms controlling rat sexual behavior, independently of whethersuch an understanding was of any use or not. My favorite afternoon distractionwas to walk over to the lab and see how the experiments were going, and if possi- ble I made some observations of a couple of copulating rats. Although I have hadthis habit for many years, I have never got bored of seeing the same motor patternsrepeated over and over again. There is always something new to discover. Theremay be some unexpected effect of an experimental treatment, a rat that behaves inanunusual way, or just a funny conversation with a student observer, who I had judged as very boring until then. However, with the passage of time and the accu-mulation of knowledge and experience, it was impossible to avoid getting somethoughts concerning the meaning and even the real interest of experimental stud-ies of rodent sexual behaviors. These thoughts partly originated in discussions withpeople outside the field of rat sex research, who candidly asked if the rat data hadany relevance for humans. My standard answer was that I didn't care, since my inter-est was focused on scientific rather than utilitarian problems. If that answer weresatisfactory or not was of no concern to me. At that time another issue appearedmore disturbing than questions regarding applicability of rat research to humans.The discovery that once glorious notions slowly were forgotten and replaced byother ones, and that dominant research themes and strategies demised and werereplaced by other ones troubled me a lot. Still worse, the replacements were notnecessarily new, they were often only different. Like we can observe at the sea-sonal shows at Paris’ haute couture houses, fashions come and go, and some come back again in an eternal vicious circle. The ephemerality of many hypotheses andresearch questions as well as the reappearance of once rejected notions seemed tome far more appalling than potential applicability of the findings.Despite the transitory nature of many hypotheses, some notions survive allchallenges and remain unchanged. They are what I like to call elements of solidknowledge, entirely different from the momentarily fashionable concepts appearingand disappearing in unending succession. The meaningful and really worthwhilein the research effort must undoubtedly be these elements of solid knowledge. I
am convinced that knowledge concerning cause–effect relationships normally belongs to the category of solid, while all other knowledge usually belongs to thecategory of ephemeral and sometimes to the field of metaphysics. However, muchresearch pretending to address cause–effect relationship is based on assumptionsgoing far beyond available data, and belongs in reality to metaphysics. Tragicallyenough, this kind of research is almost always presented as science and not asspeculation as it should be.It is not easy and perhaps not always possible to distinguish solid fromephemeral or metaphysical knowledge. Philosophers concerned with theory ofknowledge have made many suggestions, but none of them is easily employed inscientific practice. In my ignorance I decided to believe that findings based onsound experimental procedures and that are replicated in many laboratories overmany years are solid and true. Having solved, at least in my imagination, the prob-lem of stability and truthfulness of knowledge I started to consider that of the use-fulness and the applicability of the rodent data to human behavior. This is aquestion that has been discussed by many of my colleagues during many years, but I could not find any answer that was really convincing. The simple fact that thediscussion continues is by itself an excellent sign of the absence of a universallyacceptable and compelling answer.This book is an attempt to provide a picture of mammalian sexual behaviors based on solid rather than on ephemeral or metaphysical knowledge. It so hap-pened that when I started to expand my interest from rodents to other mammals,including the human, I found that some behavioral, neural, and endocrine mecha-nisms of sexuality not only had been solidly established in several species but alsothat they were astoundingly similar among species. At the same time, it becameclear that the human is not just another mammal. In the same way as human lan-guage has no correspondence in other animals, some human sexual behaviors arequite unique. This uniqueness appeared for some time as most irritating, but itturns out that it can easily be explained within a theoretical framework that alsoexplains non-human sexual behaviors. Based on this theoretical framework, acomprehensive analysis of mammalian sexual behaviors accommodating the vastmajority of known facts came almost by itself. It appears on the following pages.Writing a book produces an enormous intellectual satisfaction and a substantialamount of fatigue. For example, I have described a large number of experimentaland some non-experimental studies. In order to provide an accurate description,I was forced to carefully read all the original reports. That was a main source offatigue. Some very complicated studies required an immense effort just to find outwhat had been done, and with whom. In the end, though, the satisfaction associ-ated with writing largely outweighs the unpleasantness of fatigue. I do hope thatthe reader will share the experience of enormous satisfaction when having fin-ished the book.I decided not to include any acknowledgements in this book. Not because I con-sider that there is nothing to acknowledge, but because I fear that it is far too much.The list would never end, but despite that a lot of people who have contributedto

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