COOL CLASSES: “Neurobiology of Sexual Behavior”

COOL CLASSES: “Neurobiology of Sexual Behavior”

Seniors Jo Haller, left, and Sergio Fernandez examine a human spinal cord and human brain during their “Neurobiology of Sexual Behavior” class.

Class Name: “Neurobiology of Sexual Behavior”

Taught By: Assistant Professor of Psychology Laura Been


Here’s what Been had to say about her class:

The course is an upper level seminar that explores the relationship between the brain and sex behavior. We look at this relationship as a two-way street; we are interested in how the brain influences sexual behaviors and also how sexual behaviors can influence the brain. We don’t use a text book. Instead, students read, present, and discuss journal articles that probe these brain-behavior relationships using cutting-edge neuroscience techniques. We read papers about the neurobiology of sex behavior in a wide variety of models, ranging from fruit flies to humans and everything in between.

I created this course because it’s closely related to my own area of research. I’m a behavioral neuroscientist, and in my lab, we study the neurobiology of sex behavior using Syrian hamsters as a model organism. We know that having sex can cause profound and long-term changes in the brain, including changes in neurochemistry, electrical activity, and even the physical structure of neurons. As part of my research, I think a lot about how and why different organisms have sex and what we can learn about human behavior from understanding the neurobiology in simpler organisms. I thought it would be great to explore some of these questions with students in the classroom. I really enjoy hearing their thoughts on the papers we are reading, especially because the class is comprised of students from different backgrounds and majors. It’s fascinating to hear them link what we are talking about to something that they are learning about in their other classes.


Photo by Ryan Gooding ’16. 

See what other courses the Psychology Department is offering this semester.


Cool Classes is a recurring series on the Haverblog that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford College experience.



  1. Can you send links to a couple of relevant articles? My wife and I have been chatting about this topic.

  2. Thanks for your question, Dr. Stavis! Recently, our class has been reading about and discussing the idea that potential sex differences in the brain can lead to the generation of male-typical and female-typical sex behaviors. I would recommend reading the work of Dr. Margaret McCarthy (University of Maryland School of Medicine). She wrote an excellent article on the subject for The Scientist Magazine ( and has published widely on the subject (e.g., If you are more interested in what is happening in human’s brains during sexual intercourse, I’d recommend checking out the work of Barry Komisaruk ( He and his colleagues have been using functional imaging to map changes in the brain during orgasm. Please feel free to reach out if you have any additional questions!

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