Does porn affect the brain? Scientists urge more study

May 29, 2014
Credit: George Hodan/Public Domain

Researchers found less gray matter in the brains of men who watched large amounts of sexually explicit material, according to a new study.

The research, which appeared Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, could not determine if porn actually caused the brain to shrink however, and the authors called for additional study on the topic.

"Future studies should investigate the effects of longitudinally or expose naive participants to pornography and investigate the causal effects over time," said researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany.

The institute recruited 64 male subjects aged 21-45, "with a broad range of pornography consumption."

The men were not told initially that the research was monitoring their brains on porn, rather that it was "a scientific study including (MRI) measurements."

The men were told during a later phone interview that questions about pornography would be part of the research, and none dropped out.

The men filled out surveys, describing how much porn they watched. Their responses averaged a little more than four hours per week.

Their brains were scanned with MRI technology while they were shown sexually explicit images from , along with non-sexual images of people exercising.

"Our findings indicated that volume of the right caudate of the striatum is smaller with higher pornography use," said the study.

Furthermore, when sexually explicit material was shown, the men's MRIs showed diminished function in a part of the brain that processes motivation.

But were with smaller striatums seeking more porn, or did more porn make the brain smaller? Was it a consequence, or a precondition?

"Individuals with lower striatum volume may need more external stimulation to experience pleasure and might therefore experience pornography consumption as more rewarding, which may in turn lead to" more watching, said the authors, concluding that more study is needed.

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8 comments

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Dug
3 / 5 (2) May 29, 2014
Using the same flawed deductive approach - researching porn lowers basic research skills, critical thinking ability and IQ.
Bogey
1 / 5 (1) May 29, 2014
I can say, (with a sample size of one) there is only one thing to do mama.

I gonna.

ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long
Rustybolts
1 / 5 (1) May 29, 2014
Donate the MRI time to someone that needs it. Much more effective!
RobertKarlStonjek
1 / 5 (1) May 30, 2014
"Scientists urge more study"
...first stage of compulsive porn consumption?

Do they mean "..urge more study" or "have an urge for more study" ?
Expiorer
1 / 5 (1) May 30, 2014
It can be that only men with smaller brain watch large amounts of porn.
I don't think their brain will shrink more.
Gpnum
5 / 5 (1) May 30, 2014
It could just be that men with more gray matter lie about the time they spend watching porn ;-)
ThomasQuinn
1 / 5 (2) May 30, 2014
4 hours per week, on AVERAGE?!!! Wow.
krundoloss
5 / 5 (1) May 30, 2014
How would you really test this? Recruit a set of twins at age 11 or so and study one who watches porn and somehow forbid the other from watching porn, then compare their brains after 10 years or so?

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