ORIGINAL RESEARCH—PHYSIOLOGY: Assessment of Cerebrocortical Areas Associated with Sexual Arousal in Depressive Women Using Functional MR Imaging


Gwang-Woo Jeong, PhD, Department of Radiology, Chonnam National University Medical School, 8 Hak-dong, Dong-gu, Gwangju 501-757, Republic of Korea. Tel: +82-62-220-5881; Fax: +82-62-226-4380; E-mail: gwjeong@chonnam.ac.kr


Introduction.  Mental illness is closely related with sexual dysfunction. A number of investigators have reported that depressive women have difficulties in sexual arousal.

Aim.  The purpose of this study was to compare the cerebrocortical regions associated with sexual arousal between the healthy and depressive women using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) based on the blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) technique.

Methods.  Together with nine healthy women (mean age: 40.3), seven depressive women (mean age: 41.7 years, mean Beck Depression Inventory: 35.6, mean Hamilton Rating Scale Depression-17: 34.9) underwent fMRI examinations using a 1.5T MR scanner (Signa Horizon; GE Medical Systems, Milwaukee, WI, USA). The fMRI data were obtained from seven oblique planes using gradient-echo EPI. Sexual stimulation paradigm began with a 1-minute rest and then 4-minute stimulation using an erotic video film. The brain activation maps and their resulting quantification were analyzed by the statistical parametric mapping (SPM99) program. The number of pixels activated by each task was used as brain activity, where the significance of the differences was evaluated by using independent t-test.

Main Outcome Measures.  We measured brain activation areas using BOLD-based fMRI with visual sexual stimulation in healthy volunteers and depressive patients.

Results.  Healthy women were significantly (P < 0.05) activated in the regions of middle occipital gyrus, middle temporal gyrus, inferior frontal gyrus, insula, hypothalamus, septal area, anterior cingulate gyrus, parahippocampal gyrus, thalamus, and amygdala by erotic visual stimulation. In comparison with the healthy women, the depressive women gave lower activity, especially in the brain regions of hypothalamus (55.5:3.0), septal area (49.6:8.6), anterior cingulate gyrus (23.5:11.0), and parahippocampal gyrus (18.2:5.8).

Conclusions.  This preliminary study performed by fMRI gives valuable information on differentiation of the activated cerebral regions associated with visually evoked sexual arousal between healthy and depressive women. In addition, these findings might be useful to understand neural mechanisms for female sexual dysfunction in depressive women. Yang J-C, Park K, Eun S-J, Lee M-S, Yoon J-S, Shin I-S, Kim Y-K, Chung T-W, Kang H-K, and Jeong G-W. Assessment of cerebrocortical areas associated with sexual arousal in depressive women using functional MR imaging. J Sex Med 2008;5:602–609.