The neuroscience of sexual addiction

Toates, Frederick (2017). The neuroscience of sexual addiction. In: Birchard, Thaddeus and Benfield, Joanna eds. Routledge International Handbook of Sexual Addiction. Routledge International Handbooks. Routledge, pp. 121–132.



This chapter explores the neuroscience of sexual addiction. It focuses on a subcortical incentive motivation pathway that employs dopamine and is involved in conventional motivations. The author suggests this gets out of kilter in the case of addictions. In opposition to this excitatory input, a frontal cortical system provides an inhibitory input. The ambivalence that often accompanies addiction can be interpreted as a conflict between excitatory and inhibitory inputs. This model is used to address similarities and differences between chemical and non-chemical addictions, interactions with drugs, the often highly-specific target of sexual addiction, the validity of the notion of sexual addiction and addiction in relation to brain plasticity and development.

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