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Mental Health

Subjective Reward Value of Visual Sexual Stimuli is Coded in Human Striatum and Orbitofrontal Cortex

Subjective reward value of visual sexual stimuli is coded in human striatum and orbitofrontal cortexFull Article Title: Subjective Reward Value of Visual Sexual Stimuli is Coded in Human Striatum and Orbitofrontal Cortex

Open Access: No

Abstract

Human neuroimaging research suggests the existence of one core network for the subjective valuation of rewards, including the striatum and orbitofrontal cortex. However, there is little research on the neural representation of subjective reward values of visual sexual stimuli (VSS) and on the role of these subjective valuations in the development of related addictive behaviors. Here, we investigate how neural reactivity to VSS is connected to individual preference using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). During the fMRI scan, 72 men viewed different VSS film clips. Ratings regarding valence and sexual arousal were collected and used as parametric modulators in the fMRI analysis. Subjects also filled out questionnaires on self-reported symptoms of problematic pornography use (PPU). Firstly, we found that neural reactivity towards VSS clips in the nucleus accumbens, caudate nucleus and orbitofrontal cortex was positively correlated with individual ratings of the respective VSS in all subjects. Second, the strength of the association between neural activity and sexual arousal ratings was positively correlated with self-reported symptoms of PPU. The first result suggests a precise appraisal of VSS according to individual preferences in established reward valuation regions. Secondly, stronger neural differentiation based on preference in participants with more PPU symptoms indicates an increased importance of VSS/preference fit in these individuals. This heightened correspondence between individual liking and neural activity may facilitate PPU development by increased signaling of incentive salience, thus boosting motivation to seek out and respond to these preferred stimuli.

 

Citation

Klein, S., Kruse, O., Markert, C., Tapia León, I., Strahler, J., & Stark, R. (2020). Subjective reward value of visual sexual stimuli is coded in human striatum and orbitofrontal cortex. Behavioural Brain Research, 393. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2020.112792