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Neural Substrates of Sexual Desire in Individuals with Problematic Hypersexual Behavior

Full Article Name: Neural Substrates of Sexual Desire in Individuals with Problematic Hypersexual Behavior

Open Access: Yes


Studies on the characteristics of individuals with hypersexual disorder have been accumulating due to increasing concerns about problematic hypersexual behavior (PHB). Currently, relatively little is known about the underlying behavioral and neural mechanisms of sexual desire. Our study aimed to investigate the neural correlates of sexual desire with event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Twenty-three individuals with PHB and 22 age-matched healthy controls were scanned while they passively viewed sexual and nonsexual stimuli. The subjects’ levels of sexual desire were assessed in response to each sexual stimulus. Relative to controls, individuals with PHB experienced more frequent and enhanced sexual desire during exposure to sexual stimuli. Greater activation was observed in the caudate nucleus, inferior parietal lobe, dorsal anterior cingulate gyrus, thalamus, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the PHB group than in the control group. In addition, the hemodynamic patterns in the activated areas differed between the groups. Consistent with the findings of brain imaging studies of substance and behavior addiction, individuals with the behavioral characteristics of PHB and enhanced desire exhibited altered activation in the prefrontal cortex and subcortical regions. In conclusion, our results will help to characterize the behaviors and associated neural mechanisms of individuals with PHB.


Seok, J. -W., & Sohn, J. -H. (2015). Neural substrates of sexual desire in individuals with problematic hypersexual behavior. Frontiers in Behavior Neuroscience, 9, 321.


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