Overview

  • The Research Is In: Since 2011, there have been 26 major studies which reveal pornography use has negative and detrimental impacts on the brain.[i]

 

  • Shrinks Brain: A 2014 study of the brain scans of 64 pornography users found that increased pornography use (i.e. pornography dosage) is linked to decreased brain matter in the areas of the brain associated with motivation and decision-making, and contributed to impaired impulse control and desensitization to sexual reward.[ii] Thus the study demonstrated that pornography use can produce physical, anatomic change in the brain—a hallmark of addiction.[iii]

 

  • Hijacks the Brain’s Reward System: Motivation and reward are regulated by the mesolimbic system. There is ample evidence that the mesolimbic system is activated in response to both substance abuse and natural rewards such as sex.[iv] Addiction occurs when the pleasure/rewards pathways of the brain are hijacked by drugs such as cocaine or by natural process vital to survival such as eating and sex.[v] The constant novelty of Internet pornography, as well as properties such as violation of expectations, anticipation of reward, and the act of seeking (i.e. surfing) stimulate mesolimbic dopamine activity.[vi] Growing evidence suggests that pornography use hijacks the brain’s reward system in the same way that drug use does.[vii]

 

  • The Addiction Gets Worse: Using functional MRI, a 2015 study from Cambridge found that compulsive sexual behavior is characterized by novelty-seeking, conditioning, and habituation to sexual stimuli in males—meaning users need more extreme content over time in order achieve the same level of arousal. The study also identified a dissociation between desiring or wanting but not liking sexually explicit materials—a finding consistent with theories of incentive motivation underlying drug addiction.[viii]

[i] Your Brain on Porn, “Brain Studies on Porn Users,” (2014) http://yourbrainonporn.com/brain-scan-studies-porn-users (accessed July 13, 2016).

[ii] Simone Kühn and Jürgen Gallinat, “Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated with Pornography Consumption,” JAMA Psychiatry 71, no. 7 (2014): 827–834.

[iii] Donald L. Hilton, Jr., and Clark Watts, “Pornography Addiction: A Neuroscience Perspective,” Surgical Neurology International 2, no. 19 (2011).

[iv] K.S. Frohmader, J. Wiskerke, R.A, Wise, M.N. Lehman, and L.M. Coolen, “Methamphetamine Acts on Subpopulations of Neurons Regulating Sexual Behavior in Male Rats,” Neuroscience 166, (2010): 771–784.

[v] Hilton, ibid.

[vi] Park, ibid.

[vii] Kühn, ibid; Shane W. Kraus, Valerie Voon, and Marc N. Potenza, “Neurobiology of Compulsive Sexual Behavior: Emerging Science,” Neuropsychopharmacology 41 (2016): 385-386; D.L Wallace, V. Vialou, T.L. Carle-Florence, S. Chakravarty, A. Kumar, D.L. Graham, T.A. Green, et al., “The Influence of DeltaFosB in the Nucleus Accumbens on Natural Reward-Related Behavior,” Journal of Neuroscience 8, no. 28 (2008):10272-10277.

[viii] Voon, ibid.

By Category

  • The Research Is In: Since 2011, there have been 26 major studies which reveal pornography use has negative and detrimental impacts on the brain.[i]

 

  • Shrinks Brain: A 2014 study of the brain scans of 64 pornography users found that increased pornography use (i.e. pornography dosage) is linked to decreased brain matter in the areas of the brain associated with motivation and decision-making, and contributed to impaired impulse control and desensitization to sexual reward.[ii] Thus the study demonstrated that pornography use can produce physical, anatomic change in the brain—a hallmark of addiction.[iii]

 

  • Hijacks the Brain’s Reward System: Motivation and reward are regulated by the mesolimbic system. There is ample evidence that the mesolimbic system is activated in response to both substance abuse and natural rewards such as sex.[iv] Addiction occurs when the pleasure/rewards pathways of the brain are hijacked by drugs such as cocaine or by natural process vital to survival such as eating and sex.[v] The constant novelty of Internet pornography, as well as properties such as violation of expectations, anticipation of reward, and the act of seeking (i.e. surfing) stimulate mesolimbic dopamine activity.[vi] Growing evidence suggests that pornography use hijacks the brain’s reward system in the same way that drug use does.[vii]

 

  • The Addiction Gets Worse: Using functional MRI, a 2015 study from Cambridge found that compulsive sexual behavior is characterized by novelty-seeking, conditioning, and habituation to sexual stimuli in males—meaning users need more extreme content over time in order achieve the same level of arousal. The study also identified a dissociation between desiring or wanting but not liking sexually explicit materials—a finding consistent with theories of incentive motivation underlying drug addiction.[viii]

[i] Your Brain on Porn, “Brain Studies on Porn Users,” (2014) http://yourbrainonporn.com/brain-scan-studies-porn-users (accessed July 13, 2016).

[ii] Simone Kühn and Jürgen Gallinat, “Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated with Pornography Consumption,” JAMA Psychiatry 71, no. 7 (2014): 827–834.

[iii] Donald L. Hilton, Jr., and Clark Watts, “Pornography Addiction: A Neuroscience Perspective,” Surgical Neurology International 2, no. 19 (2011).

[iv] K.S. Frohmader, J. Wiskerke, R.A, Wise, M.N. Lehman, and L.M. Coolen, “Methamphetamine Acts on Subpopulations of Neurons Regulating Sexual Behavior in Male Rats,” Neuroscience 166, (2010): 771–784.

[v] Hilton, ibid.

[vi] Park, ibid.

[vii] Kühn, ibid; Shane W. Kraus, Valerie Voon, and Marc N. Potenza, “Neurobiology of Compulsive Sexual Behavior: Emerging Science,” Neuropsychopharmacology 41 (2016): 385-386; D.L Wallace, V. Vialou, T.L. Carle-Florence, S. Chakravarty, A. Kumar, D.L. Graham, T.A. Green, et al., “The Influence of DeltaFosB in the Nucleus Accumbens on Natural Reward-Related Behavior,” Journal of Neuroscience 8, no. 28 (2008):10272-10277.

[viii] Voon, ibid.

Articles

The Porn Phenomenon and Why You Should Care – Groundbreaking Research

The numbers are in, and one thing is clear: the phenomenon of porn use poses an unprecedented public health crisis in American society. The groundbreaking new study, “The Porn Phenomenon,”  just released several key findings which underscore the necessity of addressing pornography on a large scale. This survey reports that more than a quarter of young […]

This 12 Year Old Boy Is Speaking Out About the Danger of Porn Addiction

Canadian TV show, W5, recently ran a story on today’s hardcore internet porn and its potential impact on children. And it’s primary interviewee was 12 years old. This young boy, Joseph, was first exposed to internet porn at the age of nine. Pornographic pop-ups on gaming websites, and the easy ability to find more images […]

New Peer-Reviewed Study Affirms the Reality of Porn Addiction

A new peer-reviewed scientific research paper released last week reconfirms the existence of porn addiction.  While recent articles have been in the news that attempted to throw doubt on whether porn use can lead to addiction, superior research has validated the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s position that porn addiction is a real, and arduous, obstacle that […]

Public Health Crisis: Porn Addiction is Hijacking Your Brain

A brain that is wired to seek out physical and psychological satisfaction from viewing pornography will be stimulated even when coming into contacted with something associated with that behavior.

Video

NIGHTLINE – Sex Obsessed: Is the Teen Brain Ready for Porn?

Pornography and the Brain: Public Health Considerations | Donald Hilton, MD | US Capitol Hill Symposium

Pornography: Sex Education for the Developing Brain | Dr. Sharon Cooper

The great porn experiment | Gary Wilson | TEDxGlasgow

Are children physically, mentally, and emotionally able to process hyper-sexualized content?

A Public Health Approach to Pornography

Pornography and the Colonization of Childhood

Pornography Addiction: A Supranormal Stimulus and Neuroplasticity

Long Term Consequences of Pornography Use: Overview of Research

Other Harms