September 29, 2007
Pedophiles Look Different In Brain Scans

Brain scans of pedophiles shown adult porno demonstrate less reaction to the pictures.

Philadelphia, PA, September 20, 2007 – Pedophilia, the sexual attraction of adults to children, is a significant public health concern and it does not respond well to treatment. Additionally, the brain mechanisms underlying pedophilia are not well understood. A new study being published in the September 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry is the first of its kind to use functional brain imaging to describe neural circuits contributing to pedophilia.

I've long expected scientists will find that peds are wired up differently than the rest of us. Since I suspect the cause of their behavior comes from how their brains are wired I do not see that it makes sense to let them back out into society once they've been identified and served jail sentences. Okay, so what I do propose to do with them instead? Put them in isolated communities where they can't possibly get near children but where they are otherwise able to move about and live freely. Set aside a pedophile island where they would get relocated. Put buildings, infrastructure, other elements need to create a functional economy on that island.

I think the "isle of the damned" approach makes a lot of sense for certain types of crimes where people have unacceptable and unrepairable obsessions and criminal tendencies. If they are threats to only a portion of humanity (e.g. children, women) then put them somewhere that has none of their preferred targets.

Will we some day use brain scans to identify who should get sent to the "isle of the damned"?

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, Walter and colleagues report that pedophilic patients showed reduced activation of the hypothalamus, a brain region involved in regulating physiologic arousal and hormone release, as compared to healthy individuals when they were viewing sexually arousing pictures of adults. Deficits of activation in the frontal cortex were associated with the extent of pedophilic behavior. In other words, when shown erotic pictures of adults, the brains of the pedophilic patients had reduced reactions in the pleasure center of the brain, indicating an altered sexual interest.

Is it possible to develop a brain scanning technology that will identify pedophiles without any false positives?

The scientists obviously want “the ability to intervene rationally in this disorder".

John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, comments that, “the ability to intervene rationally in this disorder is limited by shortcomings in our understanding of its neurobiology. The findings provide clues to the complexity of this disorder, [and] this deficit may predispose individuals who are vulnerable to pedophilia to seek other forms of stimulation.” It is important to acknowledge and consider however, that it is currently unknown “whether this pattern of brain activation is a risk factor for the development of pedophilia or a consequence of their pedophilic sexual experiences,” according to Dr. Krystal, and future research will be needed.

Therapy in this case would result in reordering of neurons in the brain. These researchers sound like their ultimate goal is to reshape human desires that are considered morally unacceptable.

One of the study’s authors, Georg Northoff, M.D., Ph.D., adds, "[These findings] may open the door for better understanding the neurobiology of this disorder which is of forensic, criminal and public concern. Our results may thus be seen as the first step towards establishing a neurobiology of pedophilia which ultimately may contribute to the development of new and effective means of therapies for this debilitating disorder.

Therapies for a brain disorder that causes undesired behavior? Any such therapy would involve reshaping the brain to change emotional reactions and desires. Is this acceptable to do to criminals without their consent?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 September 29 10:00 PM  Bioethics Brain Reordering

mike anderson said at September 30, 2007 6:02 AM:

Since you've already decided to violate their civil rights anyway, why go to all the expense of an island? Just tattoo "PEDOPHILE" in large red letters, and in several languages, on various parts of their bodies, starting with the forehead?

Even the best brain scan is not going to give zero false positives; the best we can hope for is strong supporting evidence to be used in criminal trials. Punishment and rehabilitation open up questions that will take us decades to face up to, let alone resolve.

Rob said at September 30, 2007 6:51 AM:


It doesn't have to be an island. I think a peninsula would work fine.

Mike, no one's civil rights need be violated. Pedophiles might volunteer to go before they were caught, or even committed a crime, on the theory that a like-minded community and Real Dolls of children are better than being a freak and a pervert in the outside world. Not to mention that some pedophiles don't go to prison. They get beaten to death.

Going to pedophile island for life could be in exchange for sentence reduction. Anecdotal evidence seems that pedophiles do not do well in prison.

Randall Parker said at September 30, 2007 8:20 AM:


To clarify: I'm thinking about separating out people who already have been convicted. of specific crimes. You think that's a violation of their rights?

False positives: But if we brain scan people who have already been convicted it seems to me the false positive rate goes way down.


The problem we are going to run into with the pre-conviction population is false positives.

Prison: It is a hellish place according to most accounts.

Rob said at September 30, 2007 10:03 AM:


All I know about prison I learned from watching Oz, and that's all I want to know.

That is true; however, if it were a voluntary commitment, I don't see how false positives matter. I (well, not I, but someone) says to himself, "I'm a pedophile, rather than try to live monastically, I wanna go to pedophile island, where the legal restrictions no child pornography may be lessened" It seems to me, that if one thinks one is sexually attracted to children, one is probably right.

I think that if already produced child porn and/or simulated child pron were allowed, along with childlike Real Dolls, pedophile island could be a more a more appealing place than the rest of the world.

I recall reading that some state, maybe Wyoming, had the fewest restrictions on convicted child molesters, and there is an influx into the state. I am not comfortable googling on this topic, but as the Great Plains depopulate, especially of children, North Dakota might be the best place for them to go.

Oh, I emailed you a link to Early College at Bard University. I don't know if it went through your spam filter or not, I figured it was a topic up your alley.

Cedric Morrison said at September 30, 2007 4:04 PM:

>"Is it possible to develop a brain scanning technology that will identify pedophiles without any false positives?"

Even if there are no false positives, preemptively changing or segregating pedophiles is probably more than a fair society will want to do, because not all pedophiles act on their desires. People can and do control their sexual behaviors, and it isn't any more right to assume that pedophiles will not do so than it is to assume that all spouses cheat on their marriage vows or that all Catholic priests and nuns cheat on their celibacy vows.

Furthermore, for those pedophiles who are having trouble controlling themselves but are willing to be helped, there already exist chemical means to lower sex drive. SSRIs, for example, have this effect on many persons, and Depo Provera can be used for "chemical castration." Instituting a way for people to get such treatments without a lot of questions being asked would be an easier step than creating a place of exile and a lot more merciful.

In my opinion, Coventry should be reserved for actual criminals, and messing with someone's brain ought to be a strictly voluntary procedure.

Derek said at September 30, 2007 5:00 PM:

Easier and cheeper solution: chop off their balls. Can't get it up, no desire to do so. Even pretty easy to impliment:
Mr Pedofile: You have 2 choices: 100 years in jail, or having your balls removed.
Pick one.

Same thing should go for rapists in general.

M said at October 1, 2007 9:52 AM:

Even the justice system produces false positives. That's why many people do not favor capital or physical punishment. You can always bring someone back from Pedophile Island. It's much harder to put their balls back, or to give them back the years of sexual pleasure they lost. Also, how would you deal with female pedos and rapists? They're not nearly as common as males, but they do exist. Lastly, take a moment to care for your own humanity. Mutilating people is not without cost to the mutilator.

Given the future of RFID and similar technologies (I believe they will become ubiquitous), it's probably easiest to implant an RFID chip and establish a "reservation" for pedophiles. While on the reservation, they live a mostly normal life as you say. There would of course have to be measures to make sure they don't remove the chip. Probably the easiest would simply be requiring the chip to access the internet, the post office, buy groceries and other necessities of life.

perry said at October 1, 2007 11:10 AM:

M: Thanks for your humanistic response and encouragement to Derek to care for his humanity. Nice touch. I wonder if a pedophile were offered a neuron restructure that impacted only his/her desire for children and nothing else, would he/she accept the procedure provided it lived up to the claim and was safe. I think so. But I think it would be only on conviction. Then again, what do you do about the conviction once the source is removed?

Totally see too the moral slippery slope with altering behavior society views as morally wrong.....but I leave that to others smarter than I to figure out.

Randall Parker said at October 1, 2007 5:20 PM:


I like your idea of electronic tagging. But where to build the pedophile reservation? Any place you build it might have kids accidentally wandering into it at some point or other. Most will oppose having a pedophile reservation build in their county. Hence I think of Aleutian Islands. Lots of them are uninhabited by humans (at least that is my impression). So there's no NIMBY opposition in the Aleutians.

rsilvetz said at October 1, 2007 6:59 PM:

What about a pedophile wristwatch for kids. They get a free watch to wear and it lights up a bright red in proximity to a pedophile RFID and if the signal persists, dials the police via satellite with the tagged RFid number of the pedophile. Put similar detectors at schools and parks.

This creates an electronic reservation within society without ever having to exile anyone to the middle of nowhere.

M said at October 3, 2007 8:26 AM:

Most of the Earth is still uninhabited. Even ulra-densely populated areas, such as the American northeast corridor, the Netherlands and Japan still have lots of empty land. And then you have countries like Russia and Canada, or the Chinese, American and Australian western territories, where open land is in abundance. A simple high fence or wall surrounding a county-sized area would allow Pedophile Island to incorporate their own municipality, avoiding the NIMBY problem. The fence would naturally also have signs on it warning parents with children not to enter. I wouldn't rely on electronic sensors to detect children, since that would require that children be universally tagged - something I neither want or believe is even possible (lots of parents would avoid such a thing).

The key is to make Pedophile Island as normal as possible (other than the inhabitants and travel restrictions), and sustainable. If they could hold down jobs within the reservation and pay taxes they could even support the cost of the wall and the surveillance technology, rather than be pure cost to society as prisons are today. Building such a community on an Aleutian island would be far more expensive.

It sounds like an internment camp, but I think it's the better alternative to forced personality changes. The personality, the preferences and ideals of the man, are the last bastion of the soul. I don't believe in a God, but I do believe in the sanctity of the mind. Maybe one day a government that practiced such things regularly would become "good enough" at it that they can do so in a "humane" manner, but that is not a skill I want my civilization acquiring. A technology such as that, would be a tyrant's wet dream.

Alex said at November 1, 2007 6:00 AM:

The level of conclusion jumping these days is astonishing. The study did not uncover anything pathalogical; it only discovered that pedophiles do not show any sexual interest in adults. The same results would have been obtained with gays, zoophiles or asexuals being displayed images of adult women. Pedophilia is no more a "disorder" or a "deficit" than any other "minority" sexual orientations. The only difference is that homosexual/zoophile behavior is deemed legal in most jurisdictions, whereas pedophile behavior is not.

joe said at April 20, 2008 3:11 PM:

The problem with your plan is that you are condemning people based on the results of a brain scan rather than whether they have actually committed a crime or not. how would you like to have to go into the hospital for an MRI after falling off a bicycle or some other accident and waking up on a boat to "the isle of the damned" because they found an anomaly on your brain scan that proves that you are a pedophile even if you never molested a child in your life or even entertained a single sexual thought involving a child?

Ron said at September 18, 2009 3:41 PM:

I agree with Derek. The permanent solution for Sexual Predators and Pedophiles is castration. Better for them and better for society. This is a cost effective and humane solution.

There is no need to keep these people in jail for years. A simple visit to a vet and the problem is solved. As a bonus you never have to worry about them returning to society or living in your neighborhood. Talk about a good deterrent..

Aaron said at June 21, 2010 3:46 PM:

I agree with "M" & "Rob" if the government or some large funded organization would step in and create a reservation to help these peds rather than putting them in a environment where they are forced into the closet due to the fear of society's treatment of them if they ever came out, then these "people" with these desires would be going to a place where they could live freely & openly with like-minded people that can understand & accept them for who they are. As long as it is not set-up like a prison or work camp, then there should be no problem getting non-offender pedophiles to go. it is true that some pedophiles molest child, but that is just a small percentage of them; most are hard working fairly well-educated people that sacrifice their own sexual desires for one, because they care about there freedom, & two because they actually care about children & do not want to harm them. it is because every time a child is molested it is the media blows it up & all pedophiles are stereotyped to be molesters when that is not the case at all, but knowing this pedophile reservations are still a good concept because society is just not yet ready to accept abstinent peds, & it would be an important first step to getting pedophiles out of the closet and uniting them, so they could actually voice their opinions. P.S. what i want to know is why hasn't the government or some organization even tried anything like this?

Email is fake (Hopefully) said at May 5, 2012 5:18 AM:

I am a pedophile, age 20. I never have and never will abuse a child. I had one encounter with an 8 year old boy when I was 12, that's it. I myself was sexually abused as a child. I have extensive shame and guilt with this. I don't seem to be like the majority of pedophiles I have read about, and I certainly don't fit the general profile of a pedophile:

I don't try to get close to children, in fact I avoid children because I don't like my thoughts. My urges aren't usually intrusive, as in, I don't look at a child and automatically think of sex. When I masturbate, it is usually about children. I hate it, I hate myself. I know that it's disgusting. I know how badly it hurts children, that is why I would never abuse a child. I wish there was a way to rid myself of these thoughts. I've not told any therapists about this, because there seems to be no use. I have no problem with control, I would never do that. I don't have the cognitive distortions that other pedophiles seem to share. (I don't believe that a child would enjoy sexual abuse)

Anyway, this is just some insight to you all from a pedophile that is not like the majority, one that lives in his own personal hell every single day.

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