Imaging study shows abnormal activity in paedophiles’ brains

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.


7 thoughts on “Imaging study shows abnormal activity in paedophiles’ brains

  1. Might this not be true of all kinds of nonstandard sexuality?
    I would imagine that homosexuals might show similar activation patterns to heterosexual-specific porn, and vice versa.

  2. I’m not sure the implied causation is justified. It is just as easily argued that the pedophiles have been taught (by society’s attitude towards them, or explicitly by therapy) to repress their sexual responses not just towards children but also in general, and that this explains their reduced activity.

  3. What would be more valuable, although unlikely to ever be done because of social and legal attitudes, would be to let both normally-oriented and pedophilic individuals choose examples of porn they enjoyed, and examine the activity of their brains while they viewed them.
    Even if the same examples had to be used across subjects to maintain a control process, studying what happens when pedophiles view child pornography would be useful, particularly if we want to know whether there actually is something unusual about their brain structure and/or activity patterns.

  4. To take FhnuZoag’s comment a little further, I wonder what the results would be, if people who suffer severe sexual repression were included in the study. My suspicion would be that they would probably have a similar response. Two examples of people I know come to mind.
    First, is my friend Aaron, who was taught by his very religious mother, that any sort of sexual thought or action, was a vile abomination. Sex is only for procreation. I haven’t seen him in years (we grew up together) but last I saw him, when he was twenty, we had a very long discussion about sex, as it was pretty well known that I was a right whore at that time in my life. He was very strongly of the belief that sex was only to be used for procreation. He provided a bunch of literature to that effect and knowing him very well, he truly and deeply believed it. I have little doubt that he has carried that view his whole life.
    The other example, would be a friend who suffers OCD. We actually dated for a while, a few years back. She is absolutely petrified of all bodily fluids, her own included. When we were dating, she would carry babywipes everywhere. Before putting them in their small carrying case, she would add a mild bleach water to them. Her only tolerable intimacy, was a kiss on the cheek, followed by a wipe with the bleached wipes. Whenever she relieved herself, she would use the bleach wipes, on herself and the toilet. The mere mention of sex, would send her reaching for a wipe, though she claimed to have suppressed physiological responses to sexual stimuli long before.
    chococat –
    Homosexuality is indeed, non-standard. This is not a derogatory statement, it merely recognizes the fact that a very small percentage of the population has that preference. In the interest of foregoing a semantic discussion of what defines normative sexual practices, I would define it as missionary style, hetero sex. I also tend to think that anyone who doesn’t engage in some form of non-standard sexual activity, is repressing or at the least, not exploring their sexuality. Honestly, I feel sorry for such folks.

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