The role of the thalamocortical ''olfactory'' pathway in odor preferences and sexual behavior was examined in the hamster, a species which depends crucially upon olfaction for mating. Before and after ablation of primary or secondary olfactory structures, male hamsters were tested for threshold, interest, and preference for the odor of an estrus female hamster and other odors. Sexual competency was also observed in daily mating sessions. Disruption of the primary olfactory pathway resulted in an absence of interest in odors and mating. Lesions of mediodorsal thalamic nucleus or frontal neocortex of the rhinal sulcus did not result in anosmia, but did eliminate or alter odor preferences and resulted in inappropriate, inefficient, precopulatory and copulatory behavior. It appears that substructures in the thalamofrontal pathway play a role in discriminative or cognitive aspects of processing adaptively significant stimuli.

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