Review Paper: The Neuroscience of Pedophilia

The sad days are over! I just submitted the final paper for the last psychology class towards my SCAN certificate. The seminar, instructed by Teresa Pegors, is titled “Neuroscience of Human Motivation and Behavior,” and I had the more or less fabulous idea to write about pedophilia research—since it investigates into the shoreline between criminality and sexuality. That was tough, though. Not only because of the topic per se, but also since I had forgotten how hard neuroscientific(-ish) writing is. I had to correct myself over and over because it is simply too easy to write about “normal” and “abnormal” brains and desires! But, luckily, I had Georges Canguilhem watching me.

The abstract of the paper is below, and you can get a pdf of it here.

Time to take a shower and then get started with the next paper!

Neuroscientific pedophilia research has advanced over the course of last few years. Eighteen publications on the structural and functional characteristics of the brains of pedophilic individuals from the past decade, identified through a Medline search, provide the basis for this paper. With the goal to make recommendations for improvements of future research on methodological, conceptual, and ethical levels, this analysis first summarizes prevalent definitions and etiological concepts of pedophilia. It then transitions into concise summaries of individual pedophilia studies, illustrating their methodological variability. Experimental stimuli used in functional imaging studies are discussed in more detail before the concept of ‘the pedophile’, as it informs and is informed by the selection of study participants, is analyzed. Finally, the paper points to ethical concerns regarding the use of erotic visual child stimuli, the attitude towards study participants, and the use of research findings. It is suggested that future studies may benefit from attending to these concerns and from employing more coherent methods in order to make the yet inconsistent findings on the neural correlates of pedophilia more conclusive.


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