LONDON (TIP): In what could be the first major leap towards developing the world’s first X Ray scan to identify paedophiles, scientists have now confirmed that the brains of child abusers are abnormally tuned to be attracted to children’s faces.
Scientists scanned the activity in brains of 56 men, including 24 paedophiles while they were being shown photos of adult men and women and the faces of young boys and girls. In the case of paedophiles, their brains were activated most when they were looking at pictures of children.
The scientists, led by Dr Jorge Ponseti from Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany wrote in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters “The critical new finding is that face processing is also tuned to face cues revealing the developmental age that is sexually preferred”.
The study said human faces can motivate nurturing behavior or sexual behavior when adults see a child or an adult face, respectively. “This suggests that face processing is tuned to detecting age cues of sexual maturity to stimulate the appropriate reproductive behavior: either caretaking or mating. In paedophilia, sexual attraction is directed to sexually immature children.
Therefore, we hypothesized that brain networks that normally are tuned to mature faces of the preferred gender show an abnormal tuning to sexual immature faces in paedophilia. Here, we use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to test directly for the existence of a network which is tuned to face cues of sexual maturity”. “During fMRI, participants sexually attracted to either adults or children were exposed to various face images.
In individuals attracted to adults, adult faces activated several brain regions significantly more than child faces. These brain regions comprised areas known to be implicated in face processing, and sexual processing, including occipital areas, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and, subcortically, the putamen and nucleus caudatus.
The same regions were activated in paedophiles, but with a reversed preferential response pattern,” the scientists added. The researchers said that the study for the first time gives the possibility of being able to “diagnose” potential pedophiles at a young age by studying their responses to the faces of adults and children.