Sex differences in interactions between nucleus accumbens and visual cortex by explicit visual erotic stimuli: an fMRI study

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Men tend to have greater positive responses than women to explicit visual erotic stimuli (EVES). However, it remains unclear, which brain network makes men more sensitive to EVES and which factors contribute to the brain network activity. In this study, we aimed to assess the effect of sex difference on brain connectivity patterns by EVES. We also investigated the association of testosterone with brain connection that showed the effects of sex difference. During functional magnetic resonance imaging scans, 14 males and 14 females were asked to see alternating blocks of pictures that were either erotic or non-erotic. Psychophysiological interaction analysis was performed to investigate the functional connectivity of the nucleus accumbens (NA) as it related to EVES. Men showed significantly greater EVES-specific functional connection between the right NA and the right lateral occipital cortex (LOC). In addition, the right NA and the right LOC network activity was positively correlated with the plasma testosterone level in men. Our results suggest that the reason men are sensitive to EVES is the increased interaction in the visual reward networks, which is modulated by their plasma testosterone level.

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This work was supported by grants (NRF-2012R1A1A2001 and NRF-2006-2005372 to B Jeong) from National Research Foundation and in part by the KAIST Future Systems Healthcare Project from the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (N01130009, N01130010, G04110085 to B Jeong).

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Correspondence to B S Jeong.

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Supplementary Information accompanies the paper on International Journal of Impotence Research website

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