March 8, 2018

FTND Video Highlights Pornography’s Effects on the Brain

A new video produced by Fight the New Drug, featuring Drs. Simone Kühn, Don Hilton, Jr., and Philip Zimbardo, discusses research that shows how pornography has similar effects on the brain as highly addictive substances such as cocaine and methamphetamines.

Dr. Kühn, a neuroscientist and psychologist with the Max Plank Institute in Berlin, and Dr. Hilton, a neurosurgeon with the Texas Neurosciences Institute, explain how everything we do every day shapes our brain.

Using brain scans, Dr. Kühn’s research has demonstrated that grey matter in the reward center of the brain shrinks in individuals who watch more pornography. This is the same way the brain responds when addicted to drugs. Drugs literally change the grey matter structure and functioning of the brain.

Dr. Zimbardo, a psychologist and professor at Stanford University, explains, “There is solid research to show that brain functioning changes the more you watch pornography. You can get a blip up [in the rewards center] when the pornography is totally new; but totally new soon becomes old as you watch that.” This grey matter reduction impairs healthy brain functioning and desensitizes the rewards center of the brain, meaning these people need to watch more and more porn, as well as more novel types of porn, in order to experience the same level of arousal or pleasure.

While some claim that porn can be beneficial, scientific evidence-based research shows that such claims are dubious at best. And this is not the first time this type of deception has harmed the public—it also happened decades ago with cigarette smoking.

Tobacco companies, and even some “researchers”, claimed smoking was somehow beneficial to one’s health, deceiving millions of people, and getting thousands addicted to smoking. Eventually, there was enough research detailing the horrid effects of smoking on one’s health to convince the public that it truly was damaging.

Just as the addictive consequences of experimenting with drugs and tobacco aren’t worth the temporary high, experimenting with porn usage can lead to devastating results in one’s sexual, emotional, and relational health that are not worth the temporary pleasure.

You can find additional research detailing the effects of porn usage on the brain at NCOSE’s Public Health webpage, as well as at the website Your Brain on Porn.

Mary Urie

Mary Urie, a senior at Brigham Young University majoring in Public Health, is NCOSE’s public health intern. After living in Paraguay for a year and a half, she began studying a minor in international development, which then sparked her interest in women’s studies. Since then, she has focused much of her study on women’s health issues and women’s rights, both domestically and internationally. She is passionate about prevention of sexual exploitation and advocating for survivors. She loves eating ice cream, spending time on the beach, and traveling the world.

Further Reading