Title

Neural and Cognitive Control of Sexual Arousal

Date of Award

8-1-1986

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Abstract

This study investigated patterns of cortical activity and erectile responding which paralleled inhibition and •facilitation of sexual arousal in a nonclinical sample. To determine if the cerebral hemispheres contributed differential1y during regulation of arousal, the study: (a) tested for lateral asymmetries in EEG (electroencephalogram) alpha power during each condition, and (b) examined subjects' strategies for unique cognitive contributions of the hemispheres.

Thirty, right-handed, college-aged males, listened to a set sequence of tapes (neutral, erotic, neutral, erotic), counterbalanced for content and arousal regulation. Subjects simply listened to neutral tapes. To erotic tapes subjects inhibited, and alternatively facilitated arousal .

Response measures included: bilateral frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital alpha power; penile tumescence amplitude; and self-reported sexual arousal and state activation (Thayer's General Activation and Activation Dimension A factors). Subjects described their regulatory strategies and indicated their use of additional strategi es.

Results demonstrated that subjects used strategies characterized by right hemisphere cognition to facilitate arousal. Their inhibitory strategies, however, were characterized by right, as well as left hemisphere cognition. For facilitate, as compared to inhibit, conditions subjects reported greater sexual arousal and state activation.

Across presentations, changes in alpha failed to differentiate strategy conditions, although tumescence was greater during facilitation than inhibition. Within presentations, however, alpha changed as a function of strategy and was observed to a greater extent in certain areas of the brain. For the presentation Inhibit first, Facilitate second

When processing erotic, as compared to neutral, material subjects evidenced greater tumescence, and reported greater sexual arousal and state activation. Erotic conditions were differentiated from neutral conditions by bilateral alpha enhancement that was most pronounced in the posterior areas of the brain. The EEG results are discussed in terms of global versus lateralized changes, and enhancement versus suppression of alpha during conditions associated with increased general arousal, as well as sexual arousal.

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