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Release date:
Nov. 30, 2001
Contact: Deb Hammacher, Associate Director, 404-727-0644, or

Team Measures Brain Response to Visual Sexual Stimuli

What triggers certain areas of the brain to turn on in response to visual emotional and sexual stimuli is the focus of a recent study by Emory psychology professors.

Assistant professor Stephan Hamann--who studies how various stimuli affect the way memories are imprinted--and professor Kim Wallen--who studies the role of hormones and social context on the development and expression of sexual behavior in nonhuman primates--are collaborating on the project, which uses functional magnetic resonance imaging. The project differs from previous research in that it examines immediate responses to sexual stimuli. One of the project's most striking findings thus far is the strong activation of the amygdala, which in previous research has been associated with negative emotion.

Hamann and Wallen are now testing subjects for the next (and unprecedented) step of the project--investigating the differences in brain activation between males and females. Previous research, of which there is little, has examined only the male response, they said.

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