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Transl Psychiatry. 2017 May 16;7(5):e1129. doi: 10.1038/tp.2017.96.

Gray matter anomalies in pedophiles with and without a history of child sexual offending.

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Division of Forensic Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Preventive Medicine, LWL-University Hospital, Bochum, Germany.
Institute of Forensic Psychiatry, University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany.
Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Institute of Sexual Medicine and Forensic Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical School, Kiel University, Kiel, Germany.
Hannover Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, Hannover, Germany.
Division of Mind and Brain Research, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany.
Clinical Affective Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department for Behavioral Neurology, Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Magdeburg, Germany.
Department of Forensic Psychiatry, Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Munich, Munich, Germany.


Pedophilia is a psychiatric disorder that is inter-related with but distinct from child sexual offending (CSO). Neural alterations reportedly contribute to both pedophilia and CSO, but until now, no study has distinguished the brain structural anomalies associated with pedophilia from those specifically associated with CSO in pedophilic men. Using high-resolution T1-weighted brain images and voxel-based morphometry, we analyzed the gray matter (GM) volume of the following 219 men recruited at four acquisition sites in Germany: 58 pedophiles with a history of CSO, 60 pedophiles without any history of CSO and 101 non-pedophilic, non-offending controls to control for the effects of age, education level, verbal IQ, sexual orientation and the acquisition site. Although there were no differences in the relative GM volume of the brain specifically associated with pedophilia, statistical parametric maps revealed a highly significant and CSO-related pattern of above vs below the 'normal' GM volume in the right temporal pole, with non-offending pedophiles exhibiting larger volumes than offending pedophiles. Moreover, regression analysis revealed that the lower GM volume of the dorsomedial prefrontal or anterior cingulate cortex was associated with a higher risk of re-offending in pedophilic child molesters. We believe our data provide the first evidence that CSO in pedophilia rather than pedophilia alone is associated with GM anomalies and thus shed new light on the results of previous studies on this topic. These results indicate the need for new neurobehavioral theories on pedophilia and CSO and may be potentially useful for treatment or prevention approaches that aim to reduce the risk of (re)offending in pedophilia.

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