An fMRI Study of Responses to Sexual Stimuli as a Function of Gender and Sensation Seeking: A Preliminary Analysis

Melissa A. Cyders, Mario Dzemidzic, William J. Eiler, David Kareken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although sexual cues produce stronger neural activation in men than in women, mechanisms underlying this differential response are unclear. We examined the relationship of sensation seeking and the brain’s response to sexual stimuli across gender in 27 subjects (14 men, M = 25.2 years, SD = 3.6, 85.2% Caucasian) who underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while viewing sexual and nonsexual images. Whole-brain corrected significant clusters of regional activation were extracted and associated with gender, sensation seeking, and sexual behaviors. Men responded more to sexual than nonsexual images in the anterior cingulate/medial prefrontal cortex (ACC/mPFC), anterior insula/lateral orbitofrontal cortex, bilateral amygdala, and occipital regions. Sensation seeking related positively to ACC/mPFC (r = 0.65, p = 0.01) and left amygdala (r = 0.66, p = 0.01) response in men alone, with both of these correlations being significantly larger in men than in women (ps <0.03). The relationship between brain responses and self-reported high-risk and low-risk sexual behaviors showed interesting, albeit nonsignificant, gender-specific trends. These findings suggest the relationship between sexual responsivity, sensation seeking, and sexual behavior is gender specific. This study indicates a need to identify the gender-specific mechanisms that underlie sexual responsivity and behaviors. In addition, it demonstrates that the nature of stimuli used to induce positive mood in imaging and other studies should be carefully considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Sex Research
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 25 2016

Fingerprint

stimulus
Sexual Behavior
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
gender
brain
Amygdala
Prefrontal Cortex
activation
Brain
Occipital Lobe
Gyrus Cinguli
Risk-Taking
Caucasian
mood
Cues
Stimulus
Sexual
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
trend
Activation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Gender Studies

Cite this

An fMRI Study of Responses to Sexual Stimuli as a Function of Gender and Sensation Seeking : A Preliminary Analysis. / Cyders, Melissa A.; Dzemidzic, Mario; Eiler, William J.; Kareken, David.

In: Journal of Sex Research, 25.01.2016, p. 1-7.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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