Scientific Study on Effect of Porn on the Brain

In an study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2014, researchers have shown that it is possible that watching porn can literally shrink your brain. According to the report’s authors Dr. Simone Kühn and Dr. Jürgen Gallinat: “We found a significant negative association between reported pornography hours per week and gray matter volume in the right caudate (P < .001, corrected for multiple comparisons) as well as with functional activity during a sexual cue–reactivity paradigm in the left putamen (P < .001). Functional connectivity of the right caudate to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was negatively associated with hours of pornography consumption.”

Excerpts from the Article

Depictions of sexual content in films, music videos, and the Internet have increased in recent years.1 Because the Internet is not subject to regulations, it has emerged as a vehicle for circulation of pornography. Pornographic images are available for consumption in the privacy of one’s home via the Internet rather than in public adult bookstores or movie theaters. Therefore, the accessibility, affordability, and anonymity2 have attracted a wider audience. Research in the United States has shown that 66% of men and 41% of women consume pornography on a monthly basis.3 An estimated 50% of all Internet traffic is related to sex.4 These percentages illustrate that pornography is no longer an issue of minority populations but a mass phenomenon that influences our society. Interestingly, the phenomenon is not restricted to humans; a recent study found that male macaque monkeys gave up juice rewards to watch pictures of female monkeys’ bottoms.5

The frequency of pornography consumption has been shown to predict various negative outcome measures in humans. A representative Swedish study on adolescent boys has shown that boys with daily consumption showed more interest in deviant and illegal types of pornography and more frequently reported the wish to actualize what was seen in real life.1,6– 8 In partnerships, a decrease in sexual satisfaction and a tendency to adopt pornographic scripts have been associated with frequent Internet pornography consumption.9 A longitudinal study following Internet users has found that accessing pornography online was predictive of compulsive computer use after 1 year.10 Taken together, the aforementioned findings support the assumption that pornography has an impact on the behavior and social cognition of its consumers. Therefore, we assume that pornography consumption, even on a nonaddicted level, may have an impact on brain structure and function.

Similar to theories taken from addiction research, it has been speculated in popular science literature that pornography constitutes a prewired, naturally rewarding stimulus and that high levels of exposure result in a downregulation or habituation of the neural response in the reward network. This is assumed to elicit adaptive processes in which the brain is hijacked, becoming less responsive to pornography.11 There is common agreement that the neural substrates of addiction consist of brain areas that are part of the reward network such as midbrain dopamine neurons, the striatum, and the prefrontal cortex.12,13 The striatum is assumed to be involved in habit formation when drug use progresses towards compulsive behavior.14 The ventral striatum in particular has been shown to be involved in cue-reactivity processing of various drugs of abuse15 but also in processing of novelty.16 Compromised prefrontal cortex function is among the major neurobiological modifications discussed in the research on substance abuse disorders common in humans and animals.17 In studies on pharmacological addiction in humans, volumetric alterations have been shown in the striatum and prefrontal cortex.18– 20

Read the full JAMA article here – http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1874574

 

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