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Laboratory-Induced Hyperventilation Differentiates Female Sexual Arousal Disorder Subtypes

Abstract

The effects of heightened sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity via laboratory-induced hyperventilation (LIH) on subjective and physiological sexual arousal were examined in a heterogeneous group of women with Sexual Arousal Disorder (SAD; n = 60), as well as across subtypes of SAD, in comparison to a control group of women without sexual difficulties (n = 42). Participants took part in 2 min of rapid breathing, a technique previously found to increase SNS activity, immediately prior to viewing erotic stimuli. Physiological arousal (i.e., vaginal pulse amplitude; VPA) was measured via the vaginal photoplethysmograph and subjective arousal was measured via self-report questionnaires. LIH differentiated women with SAD from those in the control group, with LIH increasing VPA in the latter, but having no significant effect in the heterogeneous SAD group. However, among subtypes of SAD, LIH differentiated women with genital (n = 16) and subjective (n = 16) subtypes of SAD from women with combined SAD (n = 28) and women without sexual difficulties. Specifically, women in the control group and those with combined SAD had a significant increase in VPA whereas women with genital or subjective SAD had a significant decrease in VPA following LIH. There was no significant effect of LIH on any self-report measure of sexual arousal following erotic stimuli. Implications of the results for the conceptualization, diagnosis, and treatment of SAD are discussed.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a Killam Predoctoral Fellowship to L.A.B. and a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Trainee Fellowship to C.K. The authors wish to express their thanks to Brooke N. Seal for assistance in data collection.

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Correspondence to Lori A. Brotto.

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Brotto, L.A., Klein, C. & Gorzalka, B.B. Laboratory-Induced Hyperventilation Differentiates Female Sexual Arousal Disorder Subtypes. Arch Sex Behav 38, 463–475 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-007-9288-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-007-9288-7

Keywords

  • Female Sexual Arousal Disorder
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sympathetic nervous system
  • Photoplethysmograph