Sex addiction = brain damage? Explains a lot ...

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When you see that famous man (Tiger Woods) with the beautiful wife and the ugly mistress(es), you've wondered what in the hell was he thinking?

I know because I had the same thoughts — from Eric Benet to Jesse James — about men married to pretty women but claim to have a raging sex addiction. Well, a new study says sex addictions may stem from brain damage.

Sex addiction is more than the latest celebrity disorder du jour, but a dysfunction in a critical brain region that controls decision-making, new research suggests.

Dr. Lique Coolen, Canada Research Chair in the Neurobiology of Motivation and Reward, and colleagues have found that rats with a damaged prefrontal cortex become compulsive sex seekers.

Coolen says the prefrontal cortex, located in the front part of the brain, normally acts as a break on self-destructive behaviour.

"We're always very cautious to draw parallels between studies in rodents with human behaviours," she says. But Coolen believes hyper-sexuality doesn't deserve the bad press it has recently attracted.

"My concern is with all these celebrities claiming they have sex addiction. I read the newspaper just like everyone else. A first gut reaction is to say, 'Oh, come on, this is just an excuse that people are using.'

There is plenty of debate in the psychological community about whether sex addiction is even real. But this study is making it hard to believe that sex addiction is just an excuse for cheating:

For their study, she and her colleagues taught male rats to associate mating with "a very negative consequence:" Every time the animals copulated, the male rodents were injected with a compound that made them sick to their stomachs.

"The animal really learns to associate, 'I'm going to mate and I know I'm going to get sick afterwards," Coolen says.

Normally, it takes about four association trials for the rodents to stop initiating sex. "They see the female and try to get as far away from her as they can," Coolen says.

But when the researchers made lesions in the prefrontal cortex, the rats continued to copulate, "even though they knew the mating was associated with illness."

It may not be damage, per se, that's needed to affect the brain's inborn break on compulsive behaviour. Rather, it could be caused by a irregularity or change in the expression of certain proteins, or changes in the connections between brain cells.

Besides, knowing that the problem is in your head and not your pants makes it easier to understand why some men and women seek the extra sex partners (who look like the butt of a cruel joke most times) that they end up with.

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