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Inhibition, Lack of Excitation or Suppression: fMRI Pilot of Asexuality

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... Accordingly, in humans, it has been reported that (1) the functional organization of the brain of heterosexual women and men differs importantly from each other (Savic and Lindstrom, 2008), (2) that the brain's functional organization of homosexual men and women differs one another with the former laying closer to the brain's organization reported for heterosexual females, and the latter nearer to that reported for heterosexual males (Savic and Lindstrom, 2008), and (3) that the brain's functional organization of bisexual individuals charts somewhere in between the brain organization reported for monosexual, hetero-or homo-sexual men (Safron et al., 2017). A similar scenario has been drawn for hypersexual (Absher, 2016), asexual (Prause and Harenski, 2014) and transsexual (Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab, 2008) individuals. At least some of these phenotypes are presumed to result from specific genetic architectures (e.g., Arnold and Chen, 2009;Ngun et al., 2011;Arnold, 2017), hormonal (e.g., Wilson et al., 1981;de Vries and Södersten, 2009;Hines, 2010;Olvera-Hernández and Fernández-Guasti, 2015) and epigenetic (Rice et al., 2013;McCarthy and Nugent, 2015;Nugent et al., 2015Nugent et al., , 2017Forger, 2016;Mosley et al., 2017;McCarthy, 2019) makeups, so they may be considered as endophenotypes (e.g., Rahman, 2005;Ponseti et al., 2006). ...
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Distinct manifestations of sexual behavior are conceived as separate phenotypes. Each sexual phenotype is assumed to be associated with a characteristic brain. These notions have justified the phenotyping of heterosexual copulator males based upon their ejaculation’s latencies (EL) or frequencies (i.e., cumulative ejaculation number; EN). For instance, men and male rats showing premature, normal or retarded ejaculation are assumed to be distinctive endophenotypes. This concept, nonetheless, contradicts past and recent evidence that supports that sexual behavior is highly variable within each sex, and that the brain sexual functional morphology represents an intricate sexual phenotypic mosaic. Hence, for ejaculatory male endophenotypes to be considered as a valid biological concept, it must show internal consistency at various levels of organization (including genetic architectures), after being challenged by intrinsic and/or extrinsic factors. We then judged the internal consistency of the presumed ejaculatory endophenotypes by assessing whether copulatory behavior and the expression of copulation relevant genes and brain limbic structures are specific to each of the presumed EL- or EN-ejaculatory endophenotypes. To do this, copulating male rats were first phenotyped in groups consistently displaying short, average or long ejaculation latencies or very high, high, average, low or very low EN, based in their copulatory performance. Then, the internal consistency of the presumed EL- or EN-endophenotypes was tested by introducing as covariates of phenotyping other copulatory parameters (e.g., number of intromissions) in addition to EL or EN, or by analyzing the expression levels of genes encoding for estrogen receptor alpha, progesterone receptor, androgen receptor, aromatase, DNA methyl-transferase 3a and DNA methyl-transferase 1 in the amygdala, medial preoptic area, ventromedial hypothalamus and olfactory bulb. We found that even though there were group-level differences in all the variables that were studied, these differences did not add-up to create the presumed EL- or EN-ejaculatory endophenotypes. In fact, the extensive overlapping of copulatory parameters and expression levels of copulation relevant genes in limbic structures across EL- or EN-phenotyped copulating male rats, is not consistent with the hypothesis that distinct ejaculatory endophenotypes exist and that they are associated with specific brain characteristics.
... During the last 16 years, researchers have investigated characteristics and factors associated with asexuality (Bogaert, 2004;Brotto et al., 2010;Poston & Baumle, 2010;Prause & Graham, 2007;Scherrer, 2008;Van Houdenhove et al., 2015), such as the possibility, put forward by the asexual community, that asexuality is an innate and biologically determined sexual orientation (Cranney, 2016(Cranney, , 2017Yule et al., 2014a). Other researchers have investigated the relationship between asexuality and disorders of sexual desire or sexual arousal (Brotto & Yule, 2011;Brotto et al., 2010Brotto et al., , 2015Prause & Graham, 2007;Prause & Harenski, 2014), as well as the possibility that some asexual people have a paraphilia or unusual sexual interest (Bogaert, 2012a(Bogaert, , 2012bYule et al., 2014bYule et al., , 2017. However, to date a definitive conclusion on this topic is still a long way away. ...
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