Washington: A brain region, called the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), is responsible for sex ‘addiction’ in a person, according to a study.
People with addictive or compulsive disorders frequently display an inability to inhibit behaviours once they become maladaptive, despite adverse consequences of their behaviour.
The mPFC is a brain region involved in decision-making and behavioural flexibility, and it has been identified as a potential mediator of behavioural inhibition.
In a new study, Dr. Lique Coolen and colleagues tested whether the mPFC is involved in inhibition of sexual behaviour when associated with aversive outcomes.
Using a carefully designed experimental paradigm in rats, the researchers found that lesions of the mPFC result in compulsive sexual behaviour.
On the other hand, lesions did not alter sexual performance or the learning associated with reward or aversive stimuli.
This indicates that intact mPFC function is not required for normal expression of sexual behaviour.
Instead, the results support the hypothesis that the mPFC regulates the execution of behavioural inhibition toward sexual behaviour once this behaviour is associated with aversive outcomes.
The animals with mPFC lesions were likely capable of forming the associations with aversive outcomes of their behaviour but lacked the ability to suppress seeking of sexual reward in the face of aversive consequences.
Collectively, these data suggest a general role for the mPFC in regulating the compulsive seeking of reward, and may contribute to a better understanding of a common pathology underlying impulse control disorders.
Compulsive sexual behaviour has a high prevalence of co-morbidity with psychiatric disorders, including substance abuse and mood disorders.
The current study suggests that mPFC dysfunction may contribute to sexual risk-taking or to compulsive seeking of sexual behaviour.
Although thought provoking, we do not yet know whether these findings apply to humans.