Neural pathways in processing of sexual arousal: a dynamic causal modeling study

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Three decades of research have investigated brain processing of visual sexual stimuli with neuroimaging methods. These researchers have found that sexual arousal stimuli elicit activity in a broad neural network of cortical and subcortical brain areas that are known to be associated with cognitive, emotional, motivational and physiological components. However, it is not completely understood how these neural systems integrate and modulated incoming information. Therefore, we identify cerebral areas whose activations were correlated with sexual arousal using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging and used the dynamic causal modeling method for searching the effective connectivity about the sexual arousal processing network. Thirteen heterosexual males were scanned while they passively viewed alternating short trials of erotic and neutral pictures on a monitor. We created a subset of seven models based on our results and previous studies and selected a dominant connectivity model. Consequently, we suggest a dynamic causal model of the brain processes mediating the cognitive, emotional, motivational and physiological factors of human male sexual arousal. These findings are significant implications for the neuropsychology of male sexuality.

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