Mate Selection in the Human Male Confounded by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

A. Humans select mates based on many different criteria. Both sexes seem to prefer mates who are intelligent, honest, emotionally stable, attractive, and have good personalities. Two categories where men and women differ is in physical appearance and social status, with men placing more emphasis on appearance. This diagram illustrates the process of mate selection in the male based on visual input. Starting at the top of the diagram, input enters the eyes, passes through the optic tract, where most of the input travels through the LGN to the primary visual cortex. Recognition and identification of potential mates takes place in the temporal cortical regions, and the information is them passed to the prefrontal cortex for further processing.

B. Obsessive-compulsive disorder causes unwanted thoughts leading to anxiety-relieving behaviors called compulsions. OCD also causes difficulty in planning, prioritizing, and decision making, which can all confound mate selection. Structures involved include the prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia, as well as the anterior cingulate cortex (involved in pain perception). The caudate nucleus is believed to be a processing center or filtering station for the complex messages generated by the frontal cortex. In OCD, the smooth, efficient filtering and shifting of thoughts and behavior are disrupted by problems in the caudate nucleus.

C. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), medications like Prozac and Luvox, are effective in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder. SSRIs make more serotonin available to the basal ganglia by disabling the serotonin reuptake transporters in the synapses. This process takes at least 12 weeks, and will not completely eliminate symptoms. Worse yet, the serotonergic actions may cause sexual problems by disrupting the pathway from the NPG, shown on the previous page. Erectile dysfunction medication, such as Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis can help this problem greatly. Behavioral therapy can also improve OCD without the troublesome sexual side-effects.

Download the pdf version, with extra information about the brain chemistry of erectile dysfunction.


  • J. Cooper, F. Bloom, and R. Ross,"The biochemical basis of neuropharmacology," 6th ed, Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • W. Everaerd, E. Laan, M. Spiering, "Male Sexuality," In Psychological Perspectives on Human Sexuality, ed. L. Szuchman and F. Muscarella, Wiley & Sons Inc., 2000.
  • Pfizer Lesson, "Understanding and Treating Erectile Dysfunction," Powerpack C.E., Program No. 424-000-98-004-H01.
  • Pfizer Labs, Viagra Product Description, Document No. 69-5485-00-5, June 1999,
  • P. Regan, "Love Relationships," In Psychological Perspectives on Human Sexuality, ed. L. Szuchman and F. Muscarella, Wiley & Sons Inc., 2000.
  • M. Rosenzweig, A. Leiman, S. Breedlove, "Biological Psychology," 2nd ed., Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA, 1999.
  • J. Schwartz, "Brain Lock," Regan Books, 1996.
  • S. Stahl, "Mechanism of action of serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors," Journal of Affective Disorders, Vol. 51, p. 215-235, 1998.
ocd self test
Do you or a loved one feel like you might have a problem with OCD? Take the Self Test now to get more information.

The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Click here to read our complete Terms of Use.

Susbscribe to our free newsletter for information & inspiration

Email Social