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    • CommentAuthormjw
    • CommentTimeApr 25th 2008 edited
    From the most recent issue of NEUROIMAGE (skip below for brief comments):

    Although the neuronal mechanisms underlying normal sexual motivation and function have recently been examined, the alterations in brain function in deviant sexual behaviours such as paedophilia are largely unknown. The objective of this study was to identify paedophilia-specific functional networks implicated in sexual arousal. Therefore a consecutive sample of eight paedophile forensic inpatients, exclusively attracted to females, and 12 healthy age-matched heterosexual control participants from a comparable socioeconomic stratum participated in a visual sexual stimulation procedure during functional magnetic resonance imaging. The visual stimuli were sexually stimulating photographs and emotionally neutral photographs. Immediately after the imaging session subjective responses pertaining to sexual desire were recorded. Principally, the brain response of heterosexual paedophiles to heteropaedophilic stimuli was comparable to that of heterosexual males to heterosexual stimuli, including different limbic structures (amygdala, cingulate gyrus, and hippocampus), the substantia nigra, caudate nucleus, as well as the anterior cingulate cortex, different thalamic nuclei, and associative cortices. However, responses to visual sexual stimulation were found in the orbitofrontal cortex in healthy heterosexual males, but not in paedophiles, in whom abnormal activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was observed. Thus, in line with clinical observations and neuropsychological studies, it seems that central processing of sexual stimuli in heterosexual paedophiles may be altered by a disturbance in the prefrontal networks, which, as has already been hypothesized, may be associated with stimulus-controlled behaviours, such as sexual compulsive behaviours. Moreover, these findings may suggest a dysfunction (in the functional and effective connectivity) at the cognitive stage of sexual arousal processing.

    (article here -- hosted on my own web space, don't tell Elsevier.)

    No, this isn't enormously illuminating -- given our current understanding of prefrontal cortex, "a disturbance in the prefrontal networks" translates roughly to "wah wah wah wawah wah," and the group result doesn't translate to a reliable method of individual diagnosis. In any event, it's not clear that the difference couldn't be explained by the fact that pedophiles might feel a bit, you know, nervous or ashamed that their extremely stigmatizing condition is being examined. Still: This is where functional neuroimaging is going. We do not yet have the mystical abilities of Gregory House, who can read a patient's mental state instantaneously from a PET or fMRI scan, but that's what people want. (And that is what people like me are doing their PhDs on -- although I'm working on abstract neurophilosophical problems that no one cares about, whereas these Germans are trying, for better or worse, to solve an actual problem.)
    • CommentTimeApr 25th 2008
    mjw, I'd like to PM you on this if I could, but I'll just say I think you should take that link down (for the exact reason you think). It's a very interesting subject though.
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    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeApr 25th 2008
    It might not be predictive but it could still have uses.

    If it's sufficiently reliable, could it be used to test people accused of pedophilia?

    How about convicted pedophiles. There's this belief that pedophilia is incurable. Could this develop into a means of measuring what effect therapy has had on convicted pedophiles?
    • CommentTimeApr 30th 2008
    Makes me wonder - when do we know that we've passed from measuring stuff like a "disturbance in the prefrontal networks" to measuring different cognitive patterns? Is this scan done at the resolution where we can spot the difference between a brain thinking about robots and another brain thinking about monkeys, or are we still at the crude resolution where a detecting a difference like this indicates some kind of brain damage? And have any of these braincarving wonders thought of sitting down and defining where that resolution treshold could lie?