Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours

Posted on March 17, 2015, in Addiction, Brain Science, Men, Research

Publication Information

Title: Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours
Publication: PLOS ONE
Author: Valerie Voon, Thomas B. Mole, Paula Banca, Laura Porter, Laurel Morris, Simon Mitchell, Tatyana R. Lapa, Judy Karr, Neil A. Harrison, Marc N. Potenza, Michael Irvine
Date: 07/11/2014

Abstract

Although compulsive sexual behaviour (CSB) has been conceptualized as a “behavioural” addiction and common or overlapping neural circuits may govern the processing of natural and drug rewards, little is known regarding the responses to sexually explicit materials in individuals with and without CSB. Here, the processing of cues of varying sexual content was assessed in individuals with and without CSB, focusing on neural regions identified in prior studies of drug-cue reactivity. 19 CSB subjects and 19 healthy volunteers were assessed using functional MRI comparing sexually explicit videos with non-sexual exciting videos. Ratings of sexual desire and liking were obtained. Relative to healthy volunteers, CSB subjects had greater desire but similar liking scores in response to the sexually explicit videos. Exposure to sexually explicit cues in CSB compared to non-CSB subjects was associated with activation of the dorsal anterior cingulate, ventral striatum and amygdala. Functional connectivity of the dorsal anterior cingulate-ventral striatum-amygdala network was associated with subjective sexual desire (but not liking) to a greater degree in CSB relative to non-CSB subjects. The dissociation between desire or wanting and liking is consistent with theories of incentive motivation underlying CSB as in drug addictions. Neural differences in the processing of sexual-cue reactivity were identified in CSB subjects in regions previously implicated in drug-cue reactivity studies. The greater engagement of corticostriatal limbic circuitry in CSB following exposure to sexual cues suggests neural mechanisms underlying CSB and potential biological targets for interventions.

“Compared to healthy volunteers, CSB subjects had greater subjective sexual desire or wanting to explicit cues and had greater liking scores to erotic cues, thus demonstrating a dissociation between wanting and liking. CSB subjects also had greater impairments of sexual arousal and erectile difficulties in intimate relationships but not with sexually explicit materials highlighting that the enhanced desire scores were specific to the explicit cues and not generalized heightened sexual desire. “

 

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