A study by a team of German researchers shows that the brains of paedophiles respond differently to those of healthy controls to erotic images.
Martin Walter, of the Department of Psychiatry at Otto-von-Guricke University in Magdeburg, and his colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare neural activity in 13 paedophilic patients and 14 healthy control subjects during visual erotic stimulation.
They found that, compared to the controls, activity in several areas of the brain, including the hypothalamus, was reduced in the paedophilic patients.
The hypothalamus plays a key role in regulating physiological arousal and the release of hormones. It is, therefore, believed to be involved in the processing of erotic stimuli.
The findings, which are published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, imply that paedophiles are less aroused than others by “normal” sexual activity, and therefore seek alternative forms of stimulation.