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Biol Psychol. 2005 Sep;70(1):19-29.

Erotic and disgust-inducing pictures--differences in the hemodynamic responses of the brain.

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  • 1Department of Clinical and Physiological Psychology, Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen, Otto-Behaghel-Str. 10, 35394 Giessen, Germany.


The aim of this fMRI study was to explore brain structures that are involved in the processing of erotic and disgust-inducing pictures. The stimuli were chosen to trigger approach and withdrawal tendencies, respectively. By adding sadomasochistic (SM) scenes to the design and examining 12 subjects with and 12 subjects without sadomasochistic preferences, we introduced a picture category that induced erotic pleasure in one sample and disgust in the other sample. Since we also presented neutral pictures, all subjects viewed pictures of four different categories: neutral, disgust-inducing, erotic, and SM erotic pictures. The analysis indicated that several brain structures are commonly involved in the processing of disgust-inducing and erotic pictures (occipital cortex, hippocampus, thalamus, and the amygdala). The ventral striatum was specifically activated when subjects saw highly sexually arousing pictures. This indicates the involvement of the human reward system during the processing of visual erotica.

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