The role of the anterior cingulate cortex in women's sexual decision making
Rupp, Heather A × James, Thomas W Ketterson, Ellen D Sengelaub, Dale R Janssen, Erick Heiman, Julia R #
Neuroscience Letters vol:449 issue:1 pages:42-47
Women’s sexual decision making is a complex process balancing the potential rewards of conception and pleasure against the risks of possible low paternal care or sexually transmitted infection. Although neural processes underlying social decision making are suggested to overlap with those involved in economic decision making, the neural systems associated with women’s sexual decision making are unknown. Using fMRI, we measured the brain activation of 12 women while they viewed photos of men’s faces. Face stimuli were accompanied by information regarding each man’s potential risk as a sexual partner, indicated by a written description of the man’s number of previous sexual partners and frequency of condom use. Participants were asked to evaluate how likely they would be to have sex with the man depicted. Women reported that they would be more likely to have sex with low compared to high risk men. Stimuli depicting low risk men also elicited stronger activation in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), midbrain, and intraparietal sulcus, possibly reflecting an influence of sexual risk on women’s attraction, arousal, and attention during their sexual decision making. Activation in the ACC was positively correlated with women’s subjective evaluations of sex likelihood and response times during their evaluations of high, but not low, risk men. These findings provide evidence that neural systems involved in sexual decision making in women overlap with those described previously to underlie nonsexual decision making.