Brains of paedophiles who abuse children are different to those who do not, scientists discover
Scientists say they were able to distinguish between offending and non-offending paedophiles by monitoring their brains with an MRI scanner
Scientists used an MRI scanner to study the minds of 40 child abusers and 37 people who are paedophiles but have never sexually assaulted a child, along with 40 “healthy non-offending” people used as controls.
They found they could tell who the non-offending paedophiles were by the activation patterns in certain parts of their brain, which they believe are involved in controlling the impulse to abuse a child.
The researchers, led by Dr Christian Kaergel, of University of Duisburg-Essen, suggested their research could help lead to new treatments for paedophilia.
“In the community, paedophilia is often equated with child molestation but it is evident that paedophilia is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition to engage in child sexual offending,” Dr Kaergel said.
“This means that not all individuals with a diagnosis of paedophilia commit child sexual offences, just as many persons who sexually offend against children are not paedophilic.
“Our finding of differences in the neuroimaging profile during the assessment of a response-inhibition task underlines the importance to distinguish between paedophilic hands-on offenders and those who have not sexually offended against children in terms of separate clinical entities.”
The researchers found what they called “inhibition-related activation” of two areas of the brain, the left posterior cingulate and left superior frontal cortex, in the non-offending group.
“Both areas showing distinct activation pattern among paedophiles play a critical role in linking neural networks that relate to effective cognitive functioning,” they wrote in the journal Human Brain Mapping.
“Data therefore suggest that heightened inhibition-related recruitment of these areas as well as decreased amount of commission errors is related to better inhibitory control in paedophiles who successfully avoid committing hands-on sexual offences against children.”