Male sexual arousal (SA) has been known as a multidimensional experience involving closely interrelated and coordinated neurobehavioral components that rely on widespread brain regions. Recent functional neuroimaging studies have shown relation between abnormal/altered dynamics in these circuits and male sexual dysfunction. However, alterations in the topological organization of structural brain networks in male sexual dysfunction are still unclear. Here, we used graph theory to investigate the topological properties of large-scale structural brain networks, which were constructed using inter-regional correlations of cortical thickness between 78 cortical regions in 40 patients with psychogenic erectile dysfunction (pED) and 39 normal controls. Compared with normal controls, pED patients exhibited a less optimal global topological organization with reduced global and increased local efficiencies. Our results suggest disrupted neural integration among distant brain regions in pED patients, consistent with previous reports of impaired white matter structure and abnormal functional integrity in pED. Additionally, disrupted global network topology in pED was observed to be primarily relevant to altered subnetwork and nodal properties within the networks mediating the cognitive, motivational and inhibitory processes of male SA, possibly indicating disrupted integration of these networks in the whole brain networks and might account for pED patients' abnormal cognitive, motivational and inhibitory processes for male SA. In total, our findings provide evidence for disrupted integrity in large-scale brain networks underlying the neurobehavioral processes of male SA in pED and provide new insights into the understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms of pED.
Keywords: graph theory; magnetic resonance imaging; male sexual arousal; network topology; psychogenic erectile dysfunction.