Friday, March 4, 2011

Hypersexualised Behaviour caused by brain malfunction

Although Klüver-Bucy Syndrome is relatively rare, it's one of the most notorious neurological causes of a complete breakdown in one's ability to control sexual urges. In 1939, neuroanatomists Heinrich Klüver and Paul Bucy removed the greater portions of both temporal lobes and the rhinencephalon from the brains of rhesus monkeys.

Among a host of other peculiar effects of this rather cruel vivisection, the monkeys became incredibly randy, displaying a prominent and indiscriminate desire to copulate. The first documented case of full-blown Klüver-Bucy in humans arrived in 1955, when an epilepsy patient underwent a bilateral temporal lobectomy (a surgical excision of the lobes) and subsequently developed a ravenous sexual appetite, among other things.

More often, the syndrome appears in lesser degrees, precipitated by a nasty insult to the medial temporal lobe. That might result from a case of herpes encephalitis or Pick's disease, or from trauma and oxygen deprivation. Not all such patients experience hypersexuality, mind you, but some do. Other symptoms aren't terribly appealing, either, however; they include hyperorality (a compulsive desire to put things in one's mouth), apathy, emotional unresponsiveness, and various sensory disorders.

Dramatic case studies illustrating the devastating effects of Klüver-Bucy Syndrome abound in the clinical literature, and they raise intriguing philosophical questions for us to consider. That some patients so stricken are overcome with excessive carnal urges and are not simply using the disorder as a convenient excuse to become freely promiscuous, lewd, and lascivious is perhaps best demonstrated by a 1998 Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery study by Indian neurologist Sunil Pradhan and his colleagues.

In this report, a group of boys between the ages of 2.5 and 6 began to exhibit hypersexualized behaviors after partially recovering from comas induced by herpes encephalitis. One to three months after emerging from the comatose state, "all seven children," note the authors, "demonstrated abnormal sexual behaviour in the form of rhythmic hip movements (two patients), rubbing genitals over the bed (two patients) and excessive manipulation of genitals (all seven patients)."

Were these children just helpless, hapless puppets of their ancient, pleasure-driven brains? The authors believe so. "As all patients at the time of study, except one, were 4 years of age, with no possibility of environmental learning of sex, these movements most probably represented phylogenetically primitive reflex activities."

It may be awkward enough telling other parents why your preschooler is humping everything in sight—just try rehashing the foregoing description of Klüver-Bucy Syndrome to your friends at the day care—but we do tend, as adults, to be mostly forgiving of a child's improprieties.

When this sort of hypersexuality strikes a post-pubescent individual whose sexuality is driven by orgasm-propelled desires, things become more interesting—at least, in a philosophical sense. Although it would be entirely inaccurate to portray Klüver-Bucy patients as sex-crazed lunatics, they very often display behaviors that would be considered inappropriate by conventional standards.

One gentleman in his early 70s, for instance, hugged a female parishioner at his church and repeatedly kissed her. According to the clinical case report, he then asked the shocked woman, "Why don't we do it again?" Over the ensuing years, his sexual fantasies skyrocketed and his hyperorality became unmanageable.

The report notes that, according to his wife, "he would put any object in his mouth, including dog food, candles, adhesive bandages, and his wedding ring. His appetite seemed insatiable. … He died at age 77 years of asphyxiation on several adhesive bandages."

Hypersexualised Behaviour and the brain. - By Jesse Bering - Slate Magazine

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