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Study: Pedophiles’ Brains ‘Abnormally Tuned’ To Find Young Children Attractive

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A doctor controls the progress of an MRI. (credit: PHILIPPE MERLE/AFP/Getty Images)

A doctor controls the progress of an MRI. (credit: PHILIPPE MERLE/AFP/Getty Images)

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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS Atlanta) – According to a new study, pedophiles’ brains are “abnormally tuned” to find young children attractive.

Lead Researcher Jorge Ponseti from the University of Kiel in Germany says now it may be possible to diagnose pedophiles before they are able to offend.

The researchers found that pedophiles have the same neurological reaction to images of those they find attractive as those of people with ordinary sexual predilections. A pedophile’s relevant cerebral areas become engaged when they see children. When an adult finds someone attractive, their occipital areas become engaged, but this is inverted for pedophiles.

The researchers believe this is proof that there is a neural pattern behind a pedophile’s behavior.

“The human brain contains networks that are tuned to face processing, and these networks appear to activate different processing streams of the reproductive domain selectively: nurturing processing in the case of child faces and sexual processing in the case of sexually preferred adult faces,” they noted in the study. “This implies that the brain extracts age-related face cues of the preferred sex that inform appropriate response selection in the reproductive domains: nurturing in the case of child faces and mating in the case of adult faces.”

The researchers analyzed data obtained from MRI scans of 56 male participants. That group included 13 homosexual pedophiles and 11 heterosexual pedophiles. The men were then exposed to high arousing images of men, women, boys, and girls. The participants were then asked to rank each photo in level of attractiveness. This led the researchers to conclude that the brain networks of pedophiles are activated by sexual immaturity.

“The critical new finding is that face processing is also tuned to face cues revealing the developmental stage that is sexually preferred,” the study stated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define child sexual abuse as any sexual activity with a child where consent is not or cannot be given. This includes sexual contact that is accomplished by force or threat of force, regardless of the age of the participants, and all sexual contact between an adult and a child, regardless of whether there is deception or the child understands the sexual nature of the activity.

Sexual contact between an older and a younger child also can be abusive if there is a significant disparity in age, development, or size, rendering the younger child incapable of giving informed consent. The sexually abusive acts may include sexual penetration, sexual touching, or non-contact sexual acts such as exposure of voyeurism. Legal definitions vary from state to state.

A nationally representative survey from 2012 showed that 42.2 percent of female rape victims were first raped before they turned 18. It also showed that 29.9 percent of female rape victims were first raped between the ages of 11 and 17, while, 12.3 percent of female rape victims and 27.8 percent  of male rape victims were first raped when they were age 10 or younger.

The findings were published in the scientific journal Biology Letters.

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