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Brain’s response distinct upon exposure to erotic image

— it changes ongoing brain activity in certain ways, and we can detect those changes," Anokhin says.

Pictures appeared on a screen at 12 to 18 second intervals, and each picture remained on the screen for about 6 seconds. The subjects were instructed to do nothing other than look at the pictures.

A great deal of past research has suggested that men are more visual creatures than women and get more aroused by erotic images than women. Anokhin says the fact that the women's brains in this study exhibited such a quick response to erotic pictures suggests that, perhaps for evolutionary reasons, our brains are programmed to preferentially respond to erotic material.

"Usually men subjectively rate erotic material much higher than women," he says. "So based on those data we would expect lower responses in women, but that was not the case. Women have responses as strong as those seen in men."

Because the electroencephalogram (EEG) technology cannot pinpoint specific brain structures involved in this visual processing, Anokhin says it's not clear exactly which circuits are reacting to these visual scenes. Recent studies in primates recorded the electrical activity of single neural cells within the brain and have shown that the frontal cortex contains neurons that can discriminate between different categories of visual objects such as dogs versus cats. Whether or not the human prefrontal cortex contains special neurons that are "tuned" for sex remains a subject for future studies.

"The newer and more advanced technologies such as MRI and PET provide much better spatial resolution," he says. "Those methods can better localize areas of brain activity, but ERPs have a much better temporal resolution. The EEG can record neuronal activity in real time. When measuring activity in milliseconds, any delay is undesirable."

Most of Anokhin's research is centered on the genetic and neurobiological bases of behavioral
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