Compulsive Sexual Behavior in Humans and Preclinical Models


Purpose of Review

Compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) is widely regarded as a “behavioral addiction,” and is a major threat to quality of life and both physical and mental health. However, CSB has been slow to be recognized clinically as a diagnosable disorder. CSB is co-morbid with affective disorders as well as substance use disorders, and recent neuroimaging studies have demonstrated shared or overlapping neural pathologies disorders, especially in brain regions controlling motivational salience and inhibitory control.

Recent Findings

Clinical neuroimaging studies are reviewed that have identified structural and/or function changes in prefrontal cortex, amygdala, striatum, and thalamus in individuals suffering from CSB. A preclinical model to study the neural underpinnings of CSB in male rats is discussed consisting of a conditioned aversion procedure to examine seeking of sexual behavior despite known negative consequences. Using this preclinical model, a role of the medial prefrontal cortex was identified, including neural plasticity during comorbidity of CSB and psychostimulant abuse.


This review summarizes recent human behavioral and neuroimaging studies, in addition to preclinical models that can be used to study the underlying neurobiology of CSB.

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Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major Importance

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Correspondence to Lique M. Coolen.

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Kuiper, L.B., Coolen, L.M. Compulsive Sexual Behavior in Humans and Preclinical Models. Curr Sex Health Rep 10, 124–131 (2018).

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  • Compulsive sexual behavior
  • Hypersexuality
  • Addiction
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Limbic system
  • Sexual behavior