Porn Watchers Brains Smaller

Porn

A new scientific study about watching pornography is bound to raise eyebrows and punch lines. It is easy to imagine the comments on The Tonight Show, David Letterman or Bill Maher. Research shows men who are regular porn watchers have smaller brains and less brain activity than those who do not.

Men who watch a lot of pornography have less volume and activity in parts of their brains, specifically those regions linked to rewards and motivation, according to a German study from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development located in Berlin. Published in JAMA Psychiatry, the research did not establish a cause and effect relationship between watching porn and the decrease in brain matter or activity, just that the relationship exists.

The researchers acknowledge that it is not clear whether watching porn leads to changes in the brain or if people with certain physiological brain characteristics tend to watch more porn, according to the study’s lead author Simone Kühn. She said they cannot tell based on the study. However, the results provide the first evidence that there is a link between consumption of pornography and reductions in brain activity and size after repeated exposure to sexual stimuli.

Kühn, along with Jurgen Gallinat from Berlin’s Charite University, recruited 64 healthy males between 21 and 45 years old and asked them about their porn-watching tendencies. The men’s brains were also imaged to gauge the volume and to see what their brains did in response to pornographic pictures. The results showed that the regular porn watchers had smaller brains or showed less brain activity.

The found that the more pornography participants indicated that they consumed, the smaller their brain region associated with motivation behavior and processing rewards (the striatum) appeared, according to Kühn. They also found another brain region that is active when people view sexual stimuli got less active the more people consumed, which seems to imply that they got numb to what they were seeing. Lastly, the research team also noted that the connection between the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain most associated with decision making and behavior) and the stratum declined with increased consumption of porn.

The study shows the changes, but does not prove that porn causes changed to the brain, Kühn notes. “It’s not possible to say whether watching porn is actually harmful,” she added. The researcher also pointed out that other behaviors, such as driving a taxi, are known to create changes to brain size and functioning. “Basically everything that people do very frequently can shape their brain structure and function,” Kühn noted.

More research and longer studied on the effects of pornography, as well as other things, on the brain are needed to see if everything in excess has an impact. Conversely, research is needed on whether there is a predisposition that makes certain types of brains more susceptible to certain stimuli. In other words such to be late night comic fare, are brains smaller because people are viewing a lot of pornography or are people with smaller brains regular porn watchers?

By Dyanne Weiss

Sources:
New York Daily News
JAMA Psychiatry
TIME
New Zealand Herald

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