Introduction. Despite the interest for the brain correlates of male sexual arousal, few studies investigated neural mechanisms underlying psychogenic erectile dysfunction (ED). Although these studies showed several brain regions active in ED patients during visual erotic stimulation, the dynamics of inhibition of sexual response is still unclear.
Aim. This study investigated the dynamics of brain regions involved in the psychogenic ED.
Methods. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and simultaneous penile tumescence (PT) were used to study brain activity evoked in 17 outpatients with psychogenic ED and 19 healthy controls during visual erotic stimulation. Patterns of brain activation related to different phases of sexual response in the two groups were compared.
Main Outcome Measures. Simultaneous recording of blood oxygen level-dependent fMRI responses and PT during visual erotic stimulation.
Results. During visual erotic stimuli, a larger activation was observed for the patient group in the left superior parietal lobe, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and posterior cingulate cortex, whereas the control group showed larger activation in the right middle insula and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and hippocampus. Moreover, the left superior parietal lobe showed a larger activation in patients than controls especially during the later stage of sexual response.
Conclusion. Our results suggest that, among regions more active in patient group, the left superior parietal lobe plays a crucial role in inhibition of sexual response. Previous studies showed that left superior parietal lobe is involved in monitoring of internal body representation. The larger activation of this region in patients during later stages of sexual response suggests a high monitoring of the internal body representation, possibly affecting the behavioral response. These findings provide insight on brain mechanisms involved in psychogenic ED. Cera N, Di Pierro ED, Sepede G, Gambi F, Perrucci MG, Merla A, Tartaro A, Del Gratta C, Galatioto Paradiso G, Vicentini C, Romani GL, and Ferretti A. The role of left superior parietal lobe in male sexual behavior: Dynamics of distinct components revealed by fMRI. J Sex Med 2012;9:1602–1612.