An fMRI Study of the Emotional Perception of Erotic Images in Men Aged 49–74 Years
Psychological studies have indicated that erotic images are evaluated in the context of positive emotions as the most intense, associated with the greatest degree of emotional arousal, among the whole gamut of pleasant and unpleasant stimuli. It is diffi cult to discriminate the cortical zones directly associated with emotional arousal from the activity of structures responsible for assessing emotional stimuli in the inducement/reward system. The aim of the present work was to identify differences in cerebral activity using functional MRI scans (fMRI) in men during assessment of the intensity of pleasant images, including erotic images, or unpleasant and neutral images. Comparison of tasks involving the assessment of pleasant images of the erotic type with tasks containing neutral or unpleasant stimuli revealed signifi cantly more marked activation in the posterior cingulate cortex, the prefrontal cortex, and the globus pallidus on the right side. Comparison of tasks with pleasant and neural stimuli revealed an increase in the activity of the right anterior central gyrus. Thus, the process of assessment of the intensity of emotional images of erotic type was related to activation of brain areas belonging not only to the neural representation of the emotions, but also to the cognitive system controlling emotional arousal and the motivational domain, which needs to be considered when using erotic images as powerful positive emotional stimuli.