Activation of mirror-neuron system by erotic video clips predicts degree of induced erection: an fMRI study

Neuroimage. 2008 Sep 1;42(3):1142-50. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.05.051. Epub 2008 Jun 6.


Although visually-induced erection is a common occurrence in human male behaviour, the cerebral underpinnings of this response are not well-known. We hypothesized that the magnitude of induced erection would be linearly correlated with the activation of the mirror-neuron system in response to sexually explicit films. When presented with sexual video clips, eight out of ten healthy subjects had an erectile response demonstrated through volumetric penile plethysmography. The level of activation of the left frontal operculum and of the inferior parietal lobules, areas which contain mirror neurons, predicted the magnitude of the erectile response. These results suggest that the response of the mirror-neuron system may not only code for the motor correlates of observed actions, but also for autonomic correlates of these actions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Erotica
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Penile Erection / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*