Porn Shrinks Men’s Brain?

Porn Shrinks Men’s Brain?
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Male porn addict’s brain tends to be smaller in particular

Male porn addict’s brain tends to be smaller in particular key areas and has fewer connections than that of the guys who doesn’t watch pornography, a recent study has shown.

A brain part called the striatum that is responsible for motivation and reward shows the differences which appear in it with the long time porn watching.

The co-author of the study Simone Kühn is a psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Germany). She says that since the striatum is a brain region known for responding to sexual cues, it’s possible to assume that this influences a blunting of the reaction to erotic stimulus. Though the discovery is suggestive, it isn’t still clear that watching porn in fact makes male brain shrink. Probably guys who watch lots of porn films vary in some underlying way from those who don’t, and that can give explanation to a smaller brain size, experts say.

Disorder of Sexual Function?

With the unlimited opportunities of the Internet, people are able now anonymously access porn at any hour of the day with just the few clicks. Kühn said that this has promoted the pervasiveness of porn use and causes the question of whether it has any influence upon the brain function and structure.

Some psychologists try to prove that watching porn is harmless, while others say it is bad for mental health and can turn into sex addiction. The very recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders doesn’t classify sex addiction as a separate disorder. In 2013 the journal Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology provided a study showing that people who complained with the problems controlling their urge to get sexual images didn’t show brain patterns that are peculiar for people with addictions.

William Struthers, a neuroscientist at Wheaton College (Illinois) wasn’t involved in the new study. But he thinks that even the behavior that is far from the level of a disorder or an addiction can still be a kind of a problem. He says, that now we need to accept that this fits somewhere on a pathological level. Some people are affected a bit by pornography, while others may get their life and relationships compromised.

Brain scans

To evaluate the influence of pervasive porn watching on the brain, Simone Kühn and Jürgen Gallinat (who is a researcher at the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Germany), placed 64 healthy guys in a MRI scanner, and measured the male responses to neutral and sexual images. In common, outside of the lab, the guys watched around 4 hours of porn movies per week, with some of the respondents watching about 20 hours per week and others watching no porn at all. The addictive porn watchers displayed lower activation of reward circuitry in the brain as supposed by lower blood flow to particular brain areas in response to the sexual images.

When their brains were in the relaxed condition, they also had less grey matter volume in regions of the brain, such as the striatum, connected with reward processing and motivation, in comparison with guys who watched less porn movies. In 2012 the Journal of Sexual Medicine provided the detailed research that showed that watching porn may quiet a brain area that processes visual stimulus called the primary visual cortex.

Causality Questions

There is no surprise that frequent porn use shrinks the brain’s reward response to sexual images, said a neuroscientist at the University of California (LA) named Nicole Prause, who was also the co-author of the 2013 study on sex addiction. Actually, that’s how the brain gets addicted to anything. Prause said that they were basically demonstrating a principle of basic learning. In her lab, Prause and her colleagues scanned brain activity as respondents smelled chocolate. Prause said when people first started smelling chocolate, their brain was like ‘hell, that’s wonderful!’ And then the second time it was like ‘okay, there is nothing new about it.’

Furthermore, the imaging the scientists used in the new research to evaluate brain volume leaves some questions open. Depression and alcoholism reduce the same brain regions that were found to be smaller in porn watchers in the recent study. People who suffer depression are less likely to be in a relationship, and may therefore have fewer sexual possibilities in reality and more time on their own to watch sexual content. Thus it may be the underlying depression, not the porn movies themselves, changing the brain, Prause told.

But the investigators still did use surveys to try to control for alcoholism and depression, and the brain activity discovery is proving while there’s a possible mechanism that constant exposure to erotic content could make guys addicted to sexual rewards, Struthers said. The fact that watching sexually arousing content could potentially become something that is addictive and has negative side effects shouldn’t come as something astonishing to anyone.


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