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Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012 Feb;69(2):187-94. doi: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.130. Epub 2011 Oct 3.

Assessment of pedophilia using hemodynamic brain response to sexual stimuli.

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  • 1Section of Sexual Medicine, Christian Albrechts University, Kiel, Germany. ponseti@sexmed.uni-kiel.de



Accurately assessing sexual preference is important in the treatment of child sex offenders. Phallometry is the standard method to identify sexual preference; however, this measure has been criticized for its intrusiveness and limited reliability.


To evaluate whether spatial response pattern to sexual stimuli as revealed by a change in the blood oxygen level-dependent signal facilitates the identification of pedophiles.


During functional magnetic resonance imaging, pedophilic and nonpedophilic participants were briefly exposed to same- and opposite-sex images of nude children and adults. We calculated differences in blood oxygen level-dependent signals to child and adult sexual stimuli for each participant. The corresponding contrast images were entered into a group analysis to calculate whole-brain difference maps between groups. We calculated an expression value that corresponded to the group result for each participant. These expression values were submitted to 2 different classification algorithms: Fisher linear discriminant analysis and κ -nearest neighbor analysis. This classification procedure was cross-validated using the leave-one-out method.


Section of Sexual Medicine, Medical School, Christian Albrechts University of Kiel, Kiel, Germany.


We recruited 24 participants with pedophilia who were sexually attracted to either prepubescent girls (n = 11) or prepubescent boys (n = 13) and 32 healthy male controls who were sexually attracted to either adult women (n = 18) or adult men (n = 14).


Sensitivity and specificity scores of the 2 classification algorithms.


The highest classification accuracy was achieved by Fisher linear discriminant analysis, which showed a mean accuracy of 95% (100% specificity, 88% sensitivity).


Functional brain response patterns to sexual stimuli contain sufficient information to identify pedophiles with high accuracy. The automatic classification of these patterns is a promising objective tool to clinically diagnose pedophilia.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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