NeMUP research initiative

Neural mechanisms underlying pedophilia and sexual offending against children:
origins, assessment, and therapies

Christian-Albrechts-Universit├Ąt Kiel
University Clinic Schleswig-Holstein Campus Kiel

Institute for Sexualmedicine and Forensic Psychiatry and Psychotherapy

Center for Integrative Psychiatry gGmbH
Arnold-Heller-Str. 3
24105 Kiel

Project lead: Dr. Jorge Ponseti


Alexander Pohl, Dipl.-Psych., 0431-5973654
Hannah Gerwinn, Dipl.-Psych., 0431- 5973608


The proposal for the University of Kiel has a focus on the improvement of diagnostic methods to assess pedophilic preferences in men. For this purpose a new diagnostic method based on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which has obtained promising results in a preliminary study, will be evaluated and its accuracy verified based on a larger sample of pedophilic and teleiophilic men. In addition this method will be compared with results of the penile plethysmograph, an instrument previously used for objective measurements of sexual orientation. Hence a large reference sample will be examined using the penile plethysmograph. Based on the acquired findings, basic understanding of these methods will be enhanced, as well as evaluated and improved. With sufficient success, the results of this study could advance reliability of treatment planning for child sex abusers and pedophilic men. Furthermore treatment outcome in terms of living without sexual abuse of children could be augmented. A reliable measurement of sexual preferences in child sex abusers could as well be helpful in prognostic risk assessment. However, such an instrument could also be used in the underground. It may occur that a patient - even though seeking therapy voluntarily and without coercion - is unable to give clear information about his sexual preference. Even after further successful research, it is our moral obligation to consider a forced examination based on ethical, legal, and technical requirements inadmissible and impossible. One reason for this is that a criminal offense is only defined on the basis of behavior (e.g. child sexual abuse) and not on the basis of possible sexual orientations (e.g. pedophilia).


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