What's the Latest Development?

A new study out of UCLA challenges popular notions of sexual hyperactivity, or sex addiction, as a legitimate mental disease by showing that the brains of individuals diagnosed with sexual hyperactivity disorder do not respond abnormally to images of sexual content. "The volunteers were shown a set of photographs that were carefully chosen to evoke pleasant or unpleasant feelings," said researcher Nicole Prause. "The pictures included images of dismembered bodies, people preparing food, people skiing -- and, of course, sex. Some of the sexual images were romantic images, while others showed explicit intercourse between one man and one woman."

What's the Big Idea?

Researchers were most attentive to a measurement known as the P300 response, which measures brain activity just 300 milliseconds after an individual is subjected to a specific stimulus. The measurement gauges the brain's subconscious reaction to stimuli, before the individual is actually aware of the image before his or her eyes. The UCLA study concludes that no evidence supports the notion that sex addiction is a mental disorder: "Brain response was only related to the measure of sexual desire. In other words, hypersexuality does not appear to explain brain responses to sexual images any more than just having a high libido."

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