“Facing” the Repercussions of Sexual Harm


sexual violence
emotional stimuli

How to Cite

Pierson, E., & Sinko, L. (2022). “Facing” the Repercussions of Sexual Harm: A scoping review on neuroimaging studies using emotional stimuli with survivors of sexual violence. CommonHealth, 3(3), 107–123. Retrieved from https://tuljournals.temple.edu/index.php/commonhealth/article/view/591


While some neuroimaging research has attempted to understand sexual violence (SV) survivor responses to emotional stimuli, no review has aggregated these studies to draw conclusions across articles. The purpose of this review was to aggregate research that used neuroimaging techniques to explore SV survivor responses to emotional stimuli. Studies published in PubMed prior to October 2021 were identified using key search terms including phrases relating to “sexual violence,” “neuroimaging,” and “emotional stimuli.” Articles were only included if they followed the aforementioned criteria, were empirical, and were written in English. Articles were excluded if they did not conduct SV-specific analyses. Our refined PubMed search yielded 87 articles. Articles went through a title and abstract review, then a full text review. We found that in the remaining eleven studies that met our full text review, SV survivors displayed significantly heightened brain response patterns when exposed to emotional stimuli compared to control groups (e.g. temporal lobe all areas (n=8), amygdala activation (n=5), parietal lobe activation (n=4), frontal lobe activation (n=5)). Ten of the 11 articles used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain responses, while one used a PET scan. Given the variety of results on brain areas impacted, more research needs to be completed in this area. However, preliminary findings show that SV has some effect on the brain which may explain differences in survivor emotional reactivity.