Study: Non-offending pedophiles are neurologically distinct from pedophiles who molest

Kärgel C., et al. (2015). “Diminished Functional Connectivity on the Road to Child Sexual Abuse in Pedophilia,” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, in press.

This is the first study to compare the neurobiology of pedophilic child molesters with non-offending pedophiles. It found that pedophilic molesters had reduced functional connectivity compared to non-offending pedophiles and controls, suggesting that pedophiles who molest have “disruptions in the functional integration of inhibitory regions,” while non-offenders do not. The results challenge studies that have linked pedophilia to certain neurological deficits:

Previous neurobiological and neuropsychological investigations deduced a model of prefrontal disinhibition in general pedophilia. However, our results of diminished amygdala-OFC [orbitofrontal cortex] RSFC [functional connectivity] in P+CSAs [pedophilic child molesters] relative to P–CSAs [pedophilic non-offenders] suggest that these previous findings might be driven by CSA [child sexual abuse] rather than pedophilia, as almost all participants of these previous studies engaged in CSA. Thus, diminished RSFC between prefrontal regions and the amygdala or the PCC [posterior cingulate cortex], respectively, may reflect a biomarker for an increased risk to engage in offending behavior in general.

It also joins other studies in finding no significant difference between the intelligence of pedophiles and healthy controls; non-offending pedophiles scored 45.69 on WAIS subtests, pedophilic child molesters scored 37.75, and controls scored 37.38.


3 thoughts on “Study: Non-offending pedophiles are neurologically distinct from pedophiles who molest

  1. “Research shows that people who commit crime are more likely to have problems with impulse control than non-criminals.”

    Wow. Now that’s profound.


    • It may seem obvious to us, but it’s important for two reasons:
      – Many people like to claim that non-offenders are “ticking time bombs” who just haven’t had the right opportunity to offend. This shows that non-offenders and offenders are distinct populations.
      – Researchers have been associating pedophilia with inhibitory problems for years, on the basis of samples of criminals who failed to inhibit their impulses. Now we have proof of the sample bias.


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