Pedophilia patients are found to have deficits in brain activation

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Pedophilia and brain

Pedophilia, the sexual attraction of adults to children, is a significant public health concern and it does not respond well to treatment. Additionally, the brain mechanisms underlying pedophilia are not well understood. A new study being published in the September 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry is the first of its kind to use functional brain imaging to describe neural circuits contributing to pedophilia.

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Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, Walter and colleagues report that pedophilic patients showed reduced activation of the hypothalamus, a brain region involved in regulating physiologic arousal and hormone release, as compared to healthy individuals when they were viewing sexually arousing pictures of adults. Deficits of activation in the frontal cortex were associated with the extent of pedophilic behavior. In other words, when shown erotic pictures of adults, the brains of the pedophilic patients had reduced reactions in the pleasure center of the brain, indicating an altered sexual interest.

John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, comments that,

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