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2. Flawed Research, Misinterpretations and 'Paedophile Neurology'

ANU Blog, 26 September 2007

'Paedophiles' brains 'different' 

"A Yale University team found activity in parts of paedophiles' brains were lower than in other volunteers when shown adult, erotic material."

[Read that article here] 

The research shows that, when paedophiles viewed erotic images of women, there was a low level of activity in the hypothalamus, the area of the brain which is involved in arousal and hormone release. So, paedophiles’ brains have a lesser reaction when erotic images of women are viewed (which is also the case with homosexuals). 

It is evident that the brains of paedophiles and homosexuals are different to “normal heterosexuals” in a very similar way; despite this fact, homosexuality was removed from the DSM many years ago, whereas paedophilia is still considered a “psychosexual disorder.” Although we now accept that homosexuality is not an illness and can’t be “cured,” people connected to this study are claiming that they may now be able to “cure” paedophiles. Do people not learn anything?

The researchers also found that the frontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in cognition and reasoning, was less active in patients with “extreme paedophilic behaviour.”

This says nothing about paedophiles in general, rather it rehashes an obvious fact mentioned in another flawed study reported here; that serial child molesters are incapable of rational cognition.

Of course, using atypical paedophiles (such as actual child molesters) in a study investigating the brain functioning of an entire demographic will reveal an unrepresentative level of criminal neurology in said demographic. Criminal samples can’t be used in any respectable non-criminal study. Unfortunately, this rather basic flaw leads to the incorrect description of paedophilia as “compulsive criminality.”

Dr John Krystal, the editor of the journal which published the study, claims that,

“The findings provide clues to the complexity of this disorder, and this deficit may predispose individuals who are vulnerable to paedophilia to seek other forms of stimulation.”

This statement is somewhat unclear, but Dr Krystal appears to be suggesting that paedophilia is somehow a choice.

Anyone who can infer that paedophiles have chosen to be aroused by children (or are predisposed to choosing to be aroused by children) should not be working in this field.

Such a claim demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of sexuality, not to mention a misinterpretation of the results of the study. As I have already stated, the results of studies into the neurology of homosexuals found similar results to this study, however claims that people choose to be attracted to others of the same gender were shot down by other researchers.

Sexual orientation simply is not mutually exclusive; one does not have a certain sexual orientation merely because they don’t have another sexual orientation, nor do they “seek other forms of stimulation” simply because they are not aroused by “normal” stimuli, hence the occurrence of asexuality within some individuals.

Lead Researcher Dr Georg Northoff states that,

“[The] results may thus be seen as the first step towards establishing a neurobiology of paedophilia which ultimately may contribute to the development of new and effective means of therapies for this debilitating disorder.”

Like Dr Krystal, Dr Northoff has misinterpreted the implications of the study. No neurobiology of paedophilia has been established, rather a neurobiology of someone who is not sexually attracted to women has been established. This study does not, in fact, provide researchers with any more insight into paedophilia, which effectively renders this study the first step towards nothing.

The author of the (BBC) article believes that,

“In the UK, many experts are looking to the biology of the brain to explain not just paedophilia, but other types of compulsive criminality.”

This is despite the fact that paedophilia is not an area of criminology, rather it is a sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. A sexual attraction to children is not indicative of a criminal psychology, nor is it relevant to the study of criminal behaviour.

Finally, Dr Keith Ashcroft submits his opinion. He informs us that he is,

“campaigning for the use of anti-schizophrenia drugs in paedophilia, as these act on a similar part of the brain and may be useful.”

The same claims have been made about SSRIs, which I have taken for clinical depression. They do not change a paedophile’s sexual feelings about children, they merely make it more difficult for the paedophile to reach orgasm during masturbation, which is reportedly a side-effect also experienced by many adult-attracted males.

Paedophilia, like homosexuality, will never be cured, regardless of how much research is conducted. It is not the case that a lack of arousal to adult women is a “deficiency” or a “flaw,” despite the subjective insistence of these researchers.

If people do want to learn more about paedophilia, they should stop making it impossible for paedophiles to be “out” in society. Until they stop treating paedophiles as sub-human, they will not be able to study us, and they will continue to know nothing.

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