Self-report studies indicate that cannabis could increase sexual desire in some users. We hypothesized that intoxication increases activation of brain areas responsive to visual erotica, which could be useful in the treatment of hypoactive sexual desire disorder, a condition marked by a lack of sexual desire.
The aim of this study is to assess the aphrodisiacal properties of cannabis.
We conducted an open-randomized study with 21 heterosexual casual cannabis users. A 3T MRI was used to measure brain activation in response to erotic pictures. Blood samples were collected to determine the serum levels of cannabinoids, cortisol and prolactin. Participants were grouped according to whether they had ever experienced any aphrodisiacal effects during intoxication (Group A) or not (Group non-A).
Intoxication was found to significantly increase activation in the right nucleus accumbens in the Group A while significantly decreasing activation in the Group non-A. There was also a significant interaction between the group and intoxication, with elevated prolactin in the Group non-A during intoxication. No intoxication-related differences in subjective picture evaluations were found.
Cannabis intoxication increases activation of the right nucleus accumbens to erotic stimuli. This effect is limited to users whose prolactin is not elevated in response to intoxication. This effect may be useful in the treatment of low sexual desire.
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- Group A:
Group of participants who experience aphrodisiacal effects of cannabis
- Group non-A:
Group of participants who do not experience aphrodisiacal effects of cannabis
Anterior cingulated cortex left
Anterior cingulated cortex right
Anterior insula left
Anterior insula right
Inferior parietal lobe left
Inferior parietal lobe right
Nucleus accumbens left
Nucleus accumbens right
Orbitofrontal cortex left
Orbitofrontal cortex right
Posterior insula left
Posterior insula right
Superior parietal lobe left
Superior parietal lobe right
Ventro-lateral occipito-temporal junction left
Ventro-lateral occipito-temporal junction right
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This work was supported from the Ministry of interior of the Czech Republic (grant VG20122015080), from the Internal Grant Agency of the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic (grant number IGA MZCR NT 13145–4/2012), by the project “Sustainability for the National Institute of Mental Health”, (grant number LO1611), with a financial support of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic (program NPU I). Further, it was supported from the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic, by the projects PRVOUK34 and GAUK232415 from the Charles University, Prague, and from the Slovak Research and Development Agency (grant number APVV-14-0840).
Authors would like to thank Marketa Lichnovska (National Institute of Mental Health, Klecany, Czech Republic), Ludmila Zilava (Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovak Republic), Tim Wells (National Institute of Mental Health, Klecany, Czech Republic), Tomás Novak (National Institute of Mental Health, Klecany, Czech Republic), and Martin Kanovsky (Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovak Republic) for their support and assistance with this project.
Compliance with ethical standards
This study was approved by the Ethical committee of the National Institute of Mental Health, the Czech’s Ministry of Internal Affairs of Czech Republic, and complies with Czech laws. Prior to the study, every participant had to sign an Informed consent.
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Androvicova, R., Horacek, J., Tintera, J. et al. Individual prolactin reactivity modulates response of nucleus accumbens to erotic stimuli during acute cannabis intoxication: an fMRI pilot study. Psychopharmacology 234, 1933–1943 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-017-4601-1
- Hypoactive sexual desire
- Nucleus accumbens