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Front Neuroendocrinol. 2016 Oct;43:28-43. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2016.10.001. Epub 2016 Oct 11.

The neural basis of sex differences in sexual behavior: A quantitative meta-analysis.

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University of Regensburg, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Universitaetsstrasse 84, 93053 Regensburg, Germany. Electronic address:
University of Regensburg, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Universitaetsstrasse 84, 93053 Regensburg, Germany.
Northwestern University, Department of Psychology, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208, United States.
RWTH Aachen University, Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Pauwelsstrasse 30, 52074 Aachen, Germany; Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA), JARA Brain, Wilhelm-Johnen-Strasse, 52428 Jülich, Germany; INRIA, Neurospin - CEA, Parietal Team, Bât 145, Point Courrier 156, 91191 Gif/Yvette, France.
Florida International University, Department of Physics, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199, United States.
Research Centre Jülich, Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine (INM-1), Wilhelm-Johnen-Strasse, 52428 Jülich, Germany; Heinrich Heine University, Institute of Clinical Neuroscience and Medical Psychology, Universitaetsstrasse 1, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany.


Sexuality as to its etymology presupposes the duality of sexes. Using quantitative neuroimaging meta-analyses, we demonstrate robust sex differences in the neural processing of sexual stimuli in thalamus, hypothalamus, and basal ganglia. In a narrative review, we show how these relate to the well-established sex differences on the behavioral level. More specifically, we describe the neural bases of known poor agreement between self-reported and genital measures of female sexual arousal, of previously proposed male proneness to affective sexual conditioning, as well as hints of unconscious activation of bonding mechanisms during sexual stimulation in women. In summary, our meta-analytic review demonstrates that neurofunctional sex differences during sexual stimulation can account for well-established sex differences in sexual behavior.


ALE; Activation likelihood estimation; Functional magnetic resonance imaging; Meta-analysis; Neuroimaging; PET; Positron emission tomography; Sex differences; Sexual behavior; fMRI

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