Brain scanning stands poised to revolutionize our understanding of pedophilia and hebephilia. Although the potential importance of brain scanning technologies is widely recognized, their results and implications are not yet widely discussed outside the scientific arena. This ATSA Master Class is aimed at viewers from all disciplines, regardless of background in neuroscience or sexology, who wish to understand the current state of the science and its implications for how we think about pedophilia in clinical, ethical, and prevention efforts. The first section of the training reviews how pedophilia was historically thought to develop, how sexual interests are currently assessed, and then—in laymen’s terms—how Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) works. Also reviewed will be Computerized Tomography (CT), Positron Emission Tomography (PET), functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), and Diffusor Tensor Imaging (DTI). The second section then helps viewers to understand (1) the neuropsychological and other known correlates of sexual offending behavior, (2) the parts of the brain that process sexual stimuli, (3) the MRI techniques used to study the relevant brain functions and structure, and (4) the current body of MRI findings about pedophiles and hebephiles. Finally, the third section explores the implications of not only this work but the very idea that pedophilia and hebephilia manifest in the brain at all and could (at least partially) be fixed before birth. This training will not only make the current literature accessible to viewers, but also will help professionals critically evaluate claims made about the implications of brain scan findings for policy, practice, and science.
James Cantor, PhD is a clinical psychologist and sexual behavior scientist, focusing on atypical sexualities. His appointments have included Senior Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, and Editor-in-Chief of Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. Dr. Cantor has been applying MRI and other techniques with pedophilic men for over 20 years, identifying the role of the brain in causing the sexual interest in children. His findings suggest that having a sexual interest in children is not a result of suffering sexual abuse in one’s own children, but is an innate characteristic of neurological origin, comparable to a sexual orientation. His team’s research findings have been published in Psychological Bulletin, the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, and the Oxford Textbook of Psychopathology, and Dr. Cantor appears regularly to discuss how to apply the science in public policy to prevent child sexual abuse. Interviews with him have appeared internationally, including in the National Post, CNN, The New York Times, BBC, and Dan Savage’s Savage Love.