James M. Cantor, PhD, CPsych

Associate Professor

Department of Psychiatry

University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine

 

 

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Research projects

 

My primary research area is the development of sexual interests, including sexual orientation, “hypersexuality,” and the paraphilias. Currently, my most active projects pertain to understanding what causes pedophilia and hebephilia (sexual interests in prepubescent children and in pubescent children, respectively). Although I am a psychologist/sexologist by training, many of my research projects are interdisciplinary, bringing together psychology and psychiatry, radiology and neuroanatomy, physics, and other fields.

Current projects

 

 

Imaging pedophilic brain structure

Early studies of the brain in pedophilia were conducted largely with CT scans and provided inconsistent results. The advent of MRI-based scanning dramatically increased the clarity of images, permitting more precise measurements. Our first MRI study used conventional (T1-weighted) scans of the brain and indicated that pedophilic men differ from men who committed non-sexual crimes in having less volume in large white matter regions. White matter is the brain tissue that connects brain regions, permitting those regions to function as a single network.

 

Three-dimensional renderings of the brain regions that are smaller in pedophilic than in nonpedophilic men. High resolution versions are in Cantor et al. (2008) Journal of Psychiatric Research, 42, 167183.

 

 

In 2008, my team received a $1 million operating grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research to expand our research program. With this support, we are preparing to gather conduct detailed structural images of the brain, using more newly developed imaging technologies.

 

Functional neuroimaging of pedophilia (fMRI)

Another MRI technology, called functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging or fMRI, provides information on the brain’s reactions to different types of stimuli. In collaboration with researchers from the Toronto Western Hospital and Ryerson University, we are investigating the possibility to use fMRI to detect pedophilic sexual responses. This may lead to improved methods of diagnosing pedophilia. Piloting this project is made possible with the generous support from the University of Toronto Dean of Medicine’s New Faculty Grant.

 

The first step in this project has been to ascertain which brain regions respond to sexual stimuli in non-pedophiles:

 

Brain regions that respond to visual sexual stimuli in human males: Preliminary meta-analysis presented at the 2008 annual meeting of the International Academy of Sex Research, Leuven, Belgium. (Collaborators: Todd Girard, Matt Lovett-Baron, and Thomas Blak)

 

Morphological studies of pedophilic men

One of the most important issues for understanding the development of pedophilia is to learn when the chain of events that causes it began. Certain features of the human body develop at specific points in life. Thus, detecting differences in these features can reveal clues as to when in development pedophilic individuals began to differ from non-pedophilic individuals. To search for evidence of perturbations of physical development, we have begun a project to record the occurrence of physical characteristics that form early in life and sometimes before birth. This project has thus far demonstrated that pedophilic men are physically shorter than non-pedophilic men. We are currently gathering data on minor physical anomalies (MPAs), medically inert physical characteristics of the body that form before birth.

 

I am grateful to acknowledge support for this project from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

Last updated 9 October 2011