Senior author Nicole Prause of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, said a diagnosis of hypersexuality or sexual addiction is typically associated with people who have sexual urges that feel out of control, who engage frequently in sexual behavior, who have suffered consequences such as divorce or economic ruin as a result of their behaviors, and who have a poor ability to reduce those behaviors.
One way to tease out the difference is to measure the brain's response to sexual-image stimuli. If a person suffers sexual addiction, the brain response to visual sexual stimuli could be expected be higher, just as brains of cocaine addicts react to images of the drug.
The study involved 52 volunteers: 39 men and 13 women, age 18-39, who reported trouble controlling their viewing of sexual images. They filled out four questionnaires involving sexual behaviors, sexual desire, sexual compulsions and behavioral outcomes of sexual behavior.
While viewing the images, the brains of the volunteers were monitored using electroencephalography.
"The brain's response to sexual pictures was not predicted by any of the three questionnaire measures of hypersexuality," Prause said in a statement. "The brain's response to sexual pictures was not predicted by any of the three questionnaire measures of hypersexuality," Prause said in a statement. "Brain response was only related to the measure of sexual desire. In other words, hypersexuality does not appear to explain brain responses to sexual images any more than just having a high libido."
The findings were published in the journal Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology.