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A new study out of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin has found an association between watching pornography and the volume of gray matter in a particular region of the brain.[1]

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Scientists chose 64 healthy males between the ages of 21 and 45 to participate in the study. They begun by asking them to fill out a survey quantifying how much time they spent watching pornography each week. Researchers found the amount varied considerably between those involved in the study. On average, they found that the men did not watch more than about 4 hours of porn a week.

The Effects on The Brain

brainFollowing the survey, the brains of the men involved were scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) while they were either watching pornographic images or non-sexual images. Researchers found that there existed a negative association between the time spent watching pornographic images and the volume of gray matter of the right caudate of the striatum. They found a negative association between time spent watching porn and gray matter volume of the right caudate of the striatum.[2] While watching pornographic images, the MRI revealed that there was a decrease in brain function in the area of the brain often associated with motivation. Finally, the research suggested there was a negative link between the functional connectivity between the right caudate and the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex which watching porn.[2]

“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.”

More Investigation Needed

Unbiasedly the researchers have admitted they cannot be certain at this point that the negative aspects of brain function and gray matter volume revealed in this study are caused by watching porn. They feel that although their research illustrates a link, more investigation will be needed to prove it further.

“Future studies should investigate the effects of pornography longitudinally or expose naïve participants to pornography and investigate causal effects over time.”

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At this point the researchers have developed a few hypotheses as to why these results were found. They feel it could be that excessive stimulation of the reward system has resulted in alterations of neural plasticity. Or it could be simply that men with less gray matter in the striatum require more stimulation than other men and therefore watch more porn.

One again, the researchers acknowledge that more studies need to be done in order to to draw a more accurate conclusion, but the results are already quite intriguing.

Other Potential Downsides To Watching Porn

A popular topic as of late has been the effects of watching porn as it relates to how frequent viewers expect sex to be with with a partner. This is perhaps a conversation that has been made extra popular by the move Don Jon, where a male is addicted to porn to the point where he is unable to properly connect to a sexual partner and have a meaningful experience. In the movie, as in real life often times, his expectations of how sex should be as well as his ability to perform in certain situations is altered greatly by his addiction to porn.

One final though, often times we may not realize it, but what happens to our brains, expectations and physical reactions when we watch porn is partially training how we will perform come the real thing. We in a sense make sex entirely based on the orgasm and physical vs the varying layers of exchange and connection that exist in the act as well. Certainly some of us might only want the purely physical aspect at times in our lives, but to not experience the full experience due to a lack of connection to it can sometimes leave many feeling empty sexually.

“Pornography works in the most basic of ways on the brain: It is Pavlovian. An orgasm is one of the biggest reinforcers imaginable. If you associate orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a scent, a body, that is what, over time, will turn you on; if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on. The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros, but dilutes it. Other cultures know this. I am not advocating a return to the days of hiding female sexuality, but I am noting that the power and charge of sex are maintained when there is some sacredness to it, when it is not on tap all the time.”

Sources:

1. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-05-porn-affect-brain-scientists-urge.html

2. http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1874574

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/03/11/the-problem-with-porn-something-we-should-all-consider/

 


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