Aberrant baseline brain activity in psychogenic erectile dysfunction patients: a resting state fMRI study.

Brain imaging and behavior. 2017 Dec 14

Chenwang Jin, Min Guan, Minghao Dong, Jia Wu, Zhen He, Xin Chen, Dapeng Shi, Junchan Ren, Guangming Shi, Xiangsheng Zhang

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December 17, 2017

Recent neuroimaging studies have elucidated many interesting and promising findings on sexuality regarding the neural underpinnings of both normal and abnormal sexual processes. Psychogenic erectile dysfunction (pED) consists of a major part of male sexual dysfunction in China, but the understanding of the central mechanism of pED is still in its infancy.

It is commonly appreciated that pED is a functional disorder, which can be attributed predominantly or exclusively to psychological factors, such as anxiety, depression, loss of self-esteem, and psychosocial stresses. Most previous studies probed the central response in the brain of pED patients using sexual-related stimuli. However, little concern has been given to a more fundamental issue whether the baseline brain activity is altered in pED or not. With rs-fMRI data, the current study aimed to explain the central mechanism behind pED by investigating the alterations in baseline brain activity in patients with pED, as indexed by the amplitude of low-frequency (0.01-0.08 Hz) fluctuation (ALFF). After the psychological screening and urological examination procedure, 26 pED patients and 26 healthy matched controls were enrolled. Our results explicated significantly lower baseline brain activity in the right anterior insula and right orbitofrontal cortex for pED patients (multiple comparison corrected). Additionally, the voxel-wise correlation analysis showed that ALFF of the right anterior insula was correlated with the outcomes of erectile function (multiple comparison corrected). Our results implied there was impaired cognitive and motivational processing of sexual stimuli in pED patients. Our current findings may shed light on the neural pathology underlying pED. We hope that our study has provided a new angle looking into pED research by investigating resting state brain activity. Furthermore, we suggest that the current study may put forward a more subtle conception of insular influence on pED, which may help foster new specific, mechanistic insights.