What Watching Porn Does to Your Brain (It's Not Good)

stop watching pornThere is an old joke where a father catches his son with a dirty magazine and says “Now son, these dirty magazines will make you go blind.” To which the boy replies, “uh, dad…I’m over here.” As it turns out, that joke might have some truth to it. In our digital age, gone are the days of the common “nudie magazine” and in rushes the age of internet porn. Research in the United States has shown that 66% of men and 41% of women consume pornography on a monthly basis. An estimated 50% of all Internet traffic is related to sex.

But could porn really be bad for your brain?

If you just said “no way porn could be bad for my brain,” you might be wrong.

In an study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2014, researchers have shown that it is possible that watching porn can literally shrink your brain. According to the report’s authors Dr. Simone Kühn and Dr. Jürgen Gallinat: “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.”

Now for the really bad news: porn consumption actually makes you less receptive to sexual stimulation. The part of the brain that was shown to shrink in the research above was the striatum – which is the part of the brain associated with motivation and reward. According to Kühn: “Since the striatum is part of the brain network that is known to respond to sexual cues, one can assume that this reflects a blunting of the reaction to erotic stimuli.” The report goes on to say, “Therefore, we assume that pornography consumption, even on a nonaddicted level, may have an impact on brain structure and function.”
Read: Research: Sex Could Improve Brain Function
On top of your brain shrinking, both sexual intercourse and watching porn release dopamine into the brain, and our brains build up a tolerance. This is not unlike the responses in the brains of drug and alcohol addicts who need more and more of their substance of choice to get the same results over time. In essence, your brain becomes desensitized, requiring more and more sexual stimuli to achieve the same results.
The report goes on to conclude: “Taken together, one may be tempted to assume that the frequent brain activation caused by pornography exposure might lead to wearing and downregulation of the underlying brain structure, as well as function, and a higher need for external stimulation of the reward system and a tendency to search for novel and more extreme sexual material.”
Although the report is somewhat inconclusive, it sheds light on what is happening to your brain when you watch porn…and gives you yet another reason to go read a book.

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