Study Shows Inconclusive Link Between Internet Porn, Low Brain Activity

May 30, 2014 4:15 PM PST

BERLIN — A recent study published by JAMA Psychiatry showed a possible — but inconclusive  — link between watching porn and lowered brain activity in neural structures associated with reward processing and motivated behavior.  

“Since pornography appeared on the Internet, the accessibility, affordability and anonymity of consuming visual sexual stimuli have increased and attracted millions of users,” the study’s authors wrote in their report. “Based on the assumption that pornography consumption bears resemblance with reward-seeking behavior, novelty-seeking behavior and addictive behavior, we hypothesized alterations of the frontostriatal network in frequent users.”

In their study, “Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn,” they looked at the gray matter density in key reward-related structures (including the caudate and putamen) in 64 healthy males with a broad range of porn consumption habits.

Those who reported watching more porn exhibited less brain density in the measured areas and also showed diminished brain activity in response to sexual stimuli (suggesting decreased sensitivity and altered neural pathways), when compared to others in the study who reported watching less porn.   

Noting this, the authors concluded “Alternatively, it could be a precondition that makes pornography consumption more rewarding.”

As a reporter at The Wire noted in response to the study, almost any repetitive activity can alter neural structures and reward systems, akin to classic addiction models.

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