Women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder compared to normal females: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study

B. A. Arnow, L. Millheiser, A. Garrett, M. Lake Polan, G. H. Glover, K. R. Hill, A. Lightbody, C. Watson, L. Banner, T. Smart, T. Buchanan, J. E. Desmond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Lack of sexual interest is the most common sexual complaint among women. However, factors affecting sexual desire in women have rarely been studied. While the role of the brain in integrating the sensory, attentional, motivational, and motor aspects of sexual response is commonly acknowledged as important, little is known about specific patterns of brain activation and sexual interest or response, particularly among women. We compared 20 females with no history of sexual dysfunction (NHSD) to 16 women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study that included assessment of subjective sexual arousal, peripheral sexual response using a vaginal photoplethysmograph (VPP), as well as brain activation across three time points. Video stimuli included erotic, sports, and relaxing segments. Subjective arousal to erotic stimuli was significantly greater in NHSD participants compared with HSDD. In the erotic-sports contrast, NHSD women showed significantly greater activation in the bilateral entorhinal cortex than HSDD women. In the same contrast, HSDD females demonstrated higher activation than NHSD females in the medial frontal gyrus (Brodmann area (BA) 10), right inferior frontal gyrus (BA 47) and bilateral putamen. There were no between group differences in VPP-correlated brain activation and peripheral sexual response was not significantly associated with either subjective sexual response or brain activation patterns. Findings were consistent across the three experimental sessions. The results suggest differences between women with NHSD and HSDD in encoding arousing stimuli, retrieval of past erotic experiences, or both. The findings of greater activation in BA 10 and BA 47 among women with HSDD suggest that this group allocated significantly more attention to monitoring and/or evaluating their responses than NHSD participants, which may interfere with normal sexual response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)484-502
Number of pages19
JournalNeuroscience
Volume158
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 23 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • brain activation and sexual arousal
  • female sexual dysfunction
  • hypoactive sexual desire disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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    Arnow, B. A., Millheiser, L., Garrett, A., Lake Polan, M., Glover, G. H., Hill, K. R., Lightbody, A., Watson, C., Banner, L., Smart, T., Buchanan, T., & Desmond, J. E. (2009). Women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder compared to normal females: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Neuroscience, 158(2), 484-502. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.09.044