Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 861–873 | Cite as

An Evaluation of the Validity of Thermography as a Physiological Measure of Sexual Arousal in a Non-University Adult Sample

  • Tuuli M. Kukkonen
  • Yitzchak M. Binik
  • Rhonda Amsel
  • Serge Carrier
Original Paper


Thermography is a promising technology for the physiological measurement of sexual arousal in both men and women. This study was designed to extend our previous college student thermography study findings to an older sample (M age = 37.05 years), add an anxiety control group to further examine the specificity of temperature change, and examine the relationship between genital temperature and a continuous measure of subjective sexual arousal. Healthy men (n = 40) and women (n = 39) viewed a neutral film clip after which they were randomly assigned to view one of four other videos: neutral (n = 20), humor (n = 19), anxiety provoking (n = 20) or sexually explicit (n = 20). Genital and thigh temperature were continuously recorded using a TSA ImagIR thermographic camera. Continuous and discrete reports of subjective sexual arousal were also obtained. Results supported the validity of thermography as a measure of sexual arousal: temperature change was specific to the genitals during the sexual arousal condition and was significantly correlated with subjective continuous and discrete reports of sexual arousal. Further development should assess the potential of thermography as a tool for the diagnosis and treatment evaluation of sexual arousal difficulties and for studying sex differences.


Thermography Sexual arousal Sex differences 



We would like to thank Seahorse Biosciences (North Billerica, MA) for their generosity in providing us with the thermography equipment and Timofei Gapakov for designing the continuous measure of subjective sexual arousal. Thanks to Seth Davis, Melissa Farmer, Marie-Andrée Lahaie, Alina Kao, Louise Overington, Laurel Paterson, and Clio Pitula for their comments during the preparation of this article, as well as Christina Yager, Shiri Friewald, and Arieyu Zhang for their assistance with data collection and entry. This research was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant to Y. M. Binik, as well as a Pfizer grant and a Canadian Male Sexual Health Council grant to Y. M. Binik and S. Carrier. T. M. Kukkonen is supported by a doctoral fellowship from the Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec and this article stands in partial fulfillment of her Ph.D. requirements under the supervision of Dr. Y. M. Binik. T. M. Kukkonen was awarded the 2009 International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health New Investigator Award in Biology and the 2009 Society for Sex Therapy and Research Student Award for this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tuuli M. Kukkonen
    • 1
  • Yitzchak M. Binik
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rhonda Amsel
    • 1
  • Serge Carrier
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Sex and Couple Therapy ServiceMcGill University Health Centre (RVH)MontrealCanada
  3. 3.Department of Surgery, Division of UrologyMcGill University Health CentreMontrealCanada

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