Nicole Prause

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Nicole Prause
Born1978 (1978)
EducationIndiana University Bloomington (BA, 2000; PhD, 2007)
Known forStudies on sexual addictions, orgasm physiology, and biosignal processing
Scientific career
FieldsSexual physiology and biotechnology
InstitutionsLiberos LLC, Mind Research Network

Nicole Prause, Ph.D is an American neuroscientist researching human sexual behaviour, addiction, and the physiology of sexual response. She is also the founder of Liberos LLC, an independent research institute.

Education and career[edit]

Prause obtained her doctorate in 2007 at Indiana University Bloomington, with joint supervision by the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. Her areas of concentration were neuroscience and statistics. Her clinical internship, in neuropsychological assessment and behavioural medicine, was with the VA Boston Healthcare System's Psychology Internship Training Program.[a] Her research fellowship was in couples' treatment of alcoholism with Timothy O'Farrell at Harvard University.[2]

Prause became a tenure track faculty member at Idaho State University at the age of 29. After three years there, she accepted a position as a Research Scientist at the Mind Research Network, a neuroimaging facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 2012, Prause was elected a full member of the International Academy of Sex Research and accepted a position as a Research Scientist on faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles in the David Geffen School of Medicine. While there, she was promoted to Associate Research Scientist in 2014. Institutional attitudes towards sex research and ongoing safety threats from anti-porn organizations prompted her to found Liberos LLC in 2015.[3] This private research institute and biotechnology company is funded entirely by non-profit grants from the federal government and a foundation.[4] She also is a licensed psychologist in California.

Brain stimulation to alter sexual desire[edit]

Prause was lead author on a study[5] that was the first to apply brain stimulation (transcranial magnetic stimulation, TMS) to alter sexual responsiveness, using a high frequency form known as Theta Burst Stimulation (TBS). The same study also was the first in the US to use primary sexual rewards in the laboratory, adopting from a history of this approach in European laboratories, to overcome the problem of sex films used as secondary reinforcers in previous research. This is thought to raise new possibilities for intervention for those with high or low sex drive, which could be altered semi-permanently by repeated TBS.

Sex addiction studies[edit]

Prause co-authored a high-profile[6][7] study into the neurophysiology of pornography addiction, published in 2013, which concluded that hypersexuality might be better understood as a "non-pathological variation of high sexual desire," rather than an addiction.[8] This first functional neuroscience study of the topic[6] was replicated in 2015 with a study that remains the largest neuroscience study to date on the topic.[9]

Penile size preference study[edit]

In collaboration with psychologist Geoffrey Miller at the Mind Research Network, a neuroimaging facility in Albuquerque, Prause conducted a study in 2015 concerning women's preference in penis size, their preference across different kinds of relationships, and how important they considered penis size in the context of traits in a male partner.[10] The study was the first to use 3d printed penes to rummage through and handle, rather than flat images. Results suggested that most women preferred a penis only slightly larger than average size, that their preference differs slightly across different types of relationships, and that they found penis size to be relatively unimportant in a partner, less important than cooking skills or dress, and only more important than eye color and car type.[11] Twenty percent of participants reported never having experienced sexual intercourse prior to the start of the study.[10] A similar percentage reported having ended a relationship "in part" because of penis size.[12] Blueprints of all the model phalluses used in the study are publicly available.[13]


  1. ^ At the time, known as the Boston Consortium in Clinical Psychology
  1. ^ Elmes, John (2017-05-18). "Interview with Nicole Prause". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  2. ^ Sexual Psychophysiology and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory. "SPAN Lab People". Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  3. ^ Prause, Nicole. "Liberos". A message from the founder. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  4. ^ Liberos LLC. "About :: Liberos". Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  5. ^ Prause, Nicole; Siegle, Greg J.; Deblieck, Choi; Wu, Allan; Iacoboni, Marco (2016). "EEG to Primary Rewards: Predictive Utility and Malleability by Brain Stimulation". PLoS ONE. 11 (11). e0165646. Bibcode:2016PLoSO..1165646P. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0165646. PMC 5130195. PMID 27902711.
  6. ^ a b Keenan, Jillian (2013). "Is Sex Addiction Real or Just an Excuse?". Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  7. ^ Gannon, Megan (2013). "Sex Addiction: Brain Waves Cast Doubt on Disorder". Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  8. ^ Steele, Vaughn R.; Staley, Cameron; Fong, Timothy; Prause, Nicole (2013). "Sexual desire, not hypersexuality, is related to neurophysiological responses elicited by sexual images". Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology. 3. 20770. doi:10.3402/snp.v3i0.20770. PMC 3960022. PMID 24693355.
  9. ^ Prause, Nicole; Steele, Vaughn R.; Staley, Cameron; Sabatinelli, Dean; Hajcak, Greg (2015). "Modulation of late positive potentials by sexual images in problem users and controls inconsistent with "porn addiction"". Biological Psychology. Elsevier. 109: 192–199. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2015.06.005. PMID 26095441.
  10. ^ a b Prause, Nicole; Park, Jaymie; Leung, Shannon; Miller, Geoffrey (2015). "Women's Preferences for Penis Size: A New Research Method Using Selection among 3D Models". PLoS ONE. 10 (9). e0133079. Bibcode:2015PLoSO..1033079P. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0133079. PMC 4558040. PMID 26332467.
  11. ^ Max, Tucker. "Dr. Nicole Prause Interview (Part 1)". Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  12. ^ Allen, Samantha (2015). "Women Pick the Perfect 3D-Printed Penis". Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  13. ^ Prause, Nicole (2014). "Penile size preference study from UCLA". Retrieved 2016-08-30.