MRIs link pedophilia to problems in brain development

November 28, 2007
Modern human brain
Modern human brain. Credit: Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison Brain Collection.

Pedophilia might be the result of faulty connections in the brain, according to new research released by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). The study used MRIs and a sophisticated computer analysis technique to compare a group of pedophiles with a group of non-sexual criminals. The pedophiles had significantly less of a substance called “white matter” which is responsible for wiring the different parts of the brain together.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychiatry Research, challenges the commonly held belief that pedophilia is brought on by childhood trauma or abuse. This finding is the strongest evidence yet that pedophilia is instead the result of a problem in brain development.

Previous research from this team has strongly hinted that the key to understanding pedophilia might be in how the brain develops. Pedophiles have lower IQs, are three times more likely to be left-handed, and even tend to be physically shorter than non-pedophiles.

“There is nothing in this research that says pedophiles shouldn’t be held criminally responsible for their actions,” said Dr. James Cantor, CAMH Psychologist and lead scientist of the study, “Not being able to choose your sexual interests doesn’t mean you can’t choose what you do.”

This discovery suggests that much more research attention should be paid to how the brain governs sexual interests. Such information could potentially yield strategies for preventing the development of pedophilia.

A total of 127 men participated in the study; approximately equal numbers of pedophiles and non-sexual offenders.

The Kurt Freund Laboratory at CAMH was established in 1968 and remains one of the world’s foremost centres for the research and diagnosis of pedophilia and other sexual disorders.

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Explore further: Research team finds new explanatory approach for pedophilia

Related Stories

Research team finds new explanatory approach for pedophilia

February 22, 2018
Why some adults develop a sexual interest in children is scientifically not yet fully understood. A research team from the Institute of Sexual Medicine and Forensic Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at Kiel University and the ...

What are chronophilias?

January 26, 2018
Mr. Smith was a 27-year-old man referred for psychological treatment after sexually offending against a 13-year-old boy. He initially denied the charge, but eventually admitted to sexually abusing multiple youth. He later ...

Can brain scans be used to detect pedophiles?

October 7, 2011
( -- A new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry describes how the use of functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery, or fMRI, is able to detect and diagnose pedophilia with greater accuracy than current ...

Many researchers taking a different view of pedophilia

January 21, 2013
As a young boy, Paul Christiano loved the world of girls - the way they danced, how their spindly bodies tumbled in gymnastics. In adolescence, as other boys ogled classmates, he was troubled to find himself fantasizing about ...

Study uncovers brain changes in offending pedophiles

October 24, 2016
New research reveals that certain alterations in the brain may be present in pedophiles, with differences between hands-on offenders and those who have not sexually offended against children.

Pedophiles more likely to have physical irregularities

June 10, 2015
New research suggests pedophiles are more likely to have superficial facial flaws, known as Minor Physical Anomalies (MPAs). They are also more likely to be left-handed, says Fiona Dyshniku of the University of Windsor in ...

Recommended for you

Human 'chimeric' cells restore crucial protein in Duchenne muscular dystrophy

March 16, 2018
Cells made by fusing a normal human muscle cell with a muscle cell from a person with Duchenne muscular dystrophy —a rare but fatal form of muscular dystrophy—were able to significantly improve muscle function when implanted ...

Democratizing science: Researchers make neuroscience experiments easier to share, reproduce

March 16, 2018
Over the past few years, scientists have faced a problem: They often cannot reproduce the results of experiments done by themselves or their peers.

Team develops 3-D tissue model of a developing human heart

March 16, 2018
The heart is the first organ to develop in the womb and the first cause of concern for many parents.

Genetic variant discovery to help asthma sufferers

March 16, 2018
Research from the University of Liverpool, published today in Lancet Respiratory Medicine, identifies a genetic variant that could improve the safety and effectiveness of corticosteroids, drugs that are used to treat a range ...

Researchers say use of artificial intelligence in medicine raises ethical questions

March 15, 2018
In a perspective piece, Stanford researchers discuss the ethical implications of using machine-learning tools in making health care decisions for patients.

Study identifies potential drug for treatment of debilitating inherited neurological disease

March 15, 2018
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists have demonstrated in mouse studies that the neurological disease spinal bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) can be successfully treated with drugs. The finding paves the way for ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Dec 01, 2007
Is it possible this has links to other realms of sexuality that deviate from the norm? If this lack of brain tissue causes some to mistakenly form bonds of sexual attraction with children, could it in other cases cause people to form attractions to the same sex, or animals or other oddities?

Why does it cause them to form an attraction to children? Does it always default to children? Or could they have this condition but through lucky circumstances still find themselves attracted to the opposite sex of their age group?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.