Health, Medicine

The time course of pupil dilation evoked by visual sexual stimuli: Exploring the underlying ANS mechanisms


The early processing of visual sexual stimuli shows signs of automaticity. Moreover, there is evidence for sex-specific patterns in cognitive and physiological responding to erotica. However, little is known about the time course of rapid pupillary responses to sexual stimuli and their correspondence with other measures of autonomic activity in women and men. To study pupil dilation as an implicit measure of sexual arousal at various stages of picture processing, we presented 35 heterosexual participants with pictures showing either erotic couples or single (male/female) erotic nudes, contrasted with people involved in everyday situations. Brightness-adjusted grayscale pictures were shown for a duration of 2,500 ms within the central visual field, alternating with perceptually matched patches. Left pupil diameter was recorded at 500 Hz using a video-based eye tracker. Skin conductance and heart rate were coregistered and correlated with latent components of pupil dilation (dissociated by temporal PCA). Whereas stimulus-evoked changes in pupil size indicated virtually no initial constriction, a rapid effect of appetence emerged (dilation to erotica within 500 ms). Responses at early stages of processing were remarkably consistent across both sexes. In contrast, later phases of pupil dilation, subjective ratings, and skin conductance responses showed a sex-specific pattern. Moreover, evidence for an association of early-onset pupil dilation and heart rate acceleration was found, suggestive of parasympathetic inhibition, whereas the late component was mainly related to sympathetically mediated skin conductance. Taken together, our results indicate that different temporal components of pupil responses to erotic stimuli may reflect divergent underlying neural mechanisms.

from #ORL-AlexandrosSfakianakis via simeraentaxei on Inoreader



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