More scientific evidence is showing that pedophiles, people who are attracted to prepubescent children, have different wiring in their brains than the rest of us. A new study is adding to the literature by showing distinct differences in the brains of people who fantasize about sex acts with children, and those who act on their desires. Researchers hope this insight may inspire new treatments, and prevention efforts.

MRI scans of 40 child abusers, 37 admitted pedophiles who had not acted on their attraction, and 40 healthy controls revealed “inhibition-related activation” of two areas of the brain, the left posterior cingulate and left superior frontal cortex, in the brains of pedophiles who had never harmed a child. According to the research, this finding suggests that these non-offending pedophiles have better impulse control, and are better able to successfully avoid committing a hands-on crime, The Independent reported.

“Such information is important in order to develop and evaluate effective abuse-preventive interventions, in particular for paedophiles who already engaged in child sexual offending or those at risk,” explained senior author Dr. Boris Schiffer in a recent statement.

Other research into the biological roots of the condition suggests that it starts in the womb. Some have even gone as far as to say that pedophilia is a sexual orientation, just like heterosexuality and homosexuality, and cannot be changed. We may not be able to help our desires, but we can avoid acting on them.

When a pedophile acts on his sexual desires and is convicted of a crime, his condition comes to light. But pedophiles who never act on their attractions often go undiagnosed and they don't receive treatment. The research suggests that early interventions aimed at fostering basic impulse control abilities may help prevent crimes, and protect the innocence of children.

Source: Kargel C, Massau C, Weib S, et al. Evidence for superior neurobiological and behavioral inhibitory control abilities in non-offending as compared to offending pedophiles. Human Brain Mapping . 2016

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