Individuals with problematic hypersexual behavior (PHB) are unable to control their sexual cravings, regardless of other situational factors. This inability to control cravings is a common trait in patients with neurological pathologies related to response inhibition. Until recently, however, it was unclear whether individuals with PHB have decreased inhibition and altered neural responses in the brain regions associated with inhibition compared to healthy control individuals, especially in the presence of distracting sexual stimuli. In this study, we examined the neural and psychological underpinnings of inhibition in individuals with PHB.
Thirty individuals with PHB and 30 healthy subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing a modified go/no-go task with neutral or sexual backgrounds used as distractors.
Individuals with PHB showed poorer response inhibition than healthy subjects, especially when sexual distractors were present. Further, compared to healthy control subjects, individuals with PHB showed decreased activation in the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and reduced functional connectivity between the IFG and the pre-supplementary motor area (preSMA) when response inhibition was required. Finally, the reduced activation and connectivity were more pronounced in the presence of sexual distractors than in the presence of neutral distractors.
These findings suggest that individuals with PHB show reduced ability to inhibit responses that might be related to lower IFG activation and IFG-preSMA connectivity during response inhibition. Our results provide insights into the neurobiological underpinnings of poor response inhibition in individuals with PHB.