The (in)consistency of changes in brain macrostructure in male paedophiles: A combined T1-weighted and diffusion tensor imaging study

J Psychiatr Res. 2015 Sep;68:246-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2015.07.002. Epub 2015 Jul 2.


Thus far, four studies have used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to test for differences in brain structure between paedophilic (i.e. sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children) and teleiophilic (i.e. sexually attracted to adults) men, revealing divergent results. To re-examine this issue, we acquired high resolution structural T1-weighted and diffusion MRI scans of the brain in 24 paedophilic and 32 teleiophilic men. We performed voxel-based morphometry (VBM) of the T1-weighted images and tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) of the diffusion tensor imaging data to search for grey and white matter differences between groups. In contrast to previous studies, less than half of the individuals in our paedophilic group had a record of sexual offences against children, as subjects were partially recruited from two outpatient facilities of a child sexual abuse prevention project for self-acknowledged paedophiles. After adjustment for multiple comparisons and controlling for important confounding factors, we did not find any significant grey or white matter differences between the paedophilic and teleiophilic subjects. Together with the inconsistencies in the literature, these results argue against consistent structural differences at the macroanatomical scale between paedophiles and teleiophiles.

Keywords: Brain structure; DTI; MRI; Paedophilia; Sexual orientation; VBM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Criminals
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods
  • Gray Matter / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Pedophilia / pathology*
  • Sexual Behavior
  • White Matter / pathology