While we all like different kinds of porn, there is no denying that there is, in fact, a ‘type’ of porn out there for everyone. Whether you occasionally watch or watch it every day, porn does something interesting to your brain when you watch it.

A study from back in 2016 actually took MRI brain scans of men who were watching porn and found that there was a drastic enhancement in the level of activity within their ventral striatum. This for those who are unaware plays a big part in how we make decisions and what kinds of reward-related things we partake in. While that might sound like a lot basically all it means is that these men’s brains were releasing chemicals like dopamine while they were watching these pornographic videos or looking at pornographic images.

The abstract for this study goes as follows:

One type of Internet addiction is excessive pornography consumption, also referred to as cybersex or Internet pornography addiction. Neuroimaging studies found ventral striatum activity when participants watched explicit sexual stimuli compared to non-explicit sexual/erotic material. We now hypothesized that the ventral striatum should respond to preferred pornographic compared to non-preferred pornographic pictures and that the ventral striatum activity in this contrast should be correlated with subjective symptoms of Internet pornography addiction.

We studied 19 heterosexual male participants with a picture paradigm including preferred and non-preferred pornographic materials. Subjects had to evaluate each picture with respect to arousal, unpleasantness, and closeness to ideal. Pictures from the preferred category were rated as more arousing, less unpleasant, and closer to ideal. Ventral striatum response was stronger for the preferred condition compared to non-preferred pictures. Ventral striatum activity in this contrast was correlated with the self-reported symptoms of Internet pornography addiction. The subjective symptom severity was also the only significant predictor in a regression analysis with ventral striatum response as a dependent variable and subjective symptoms of Internet pornography addiction, general sexual excitability, hypersexual behavior, depression, interpersonal sensitivity, and sexual behavior in the last days as predictors.

The results support the role for the ventral striatum in processing reward anticipation and gratification linked to subjectively preferred pornographic material. Mechanisms for reward anticipation in ventral striatum may contribute to a neural explanation of why individuals with certain preferences and sexual fantasies are at-risk for losing their control over Internet pornography consumption.

From there these researchers were able to note that the neural basis of internet pornography addiction was easily comparable to other kinds of addictions. Yes, they were one and the same. Because these things within our brains are being released it makes us want to partake more and more. It should also be mentioned that research has shown in the past as well that recreational users of pornographic content usually live much more physically satisfying lives and experience lower physical compulsivity. 

All of this having been said the truth is we don’t know much about the effects porn viewing can have on our brains as research on the topic is quite sparse. These kinds of things are much more limited than you might think and should be looked at more in-depth for a lot of reasons. Do you think pornographic content affects our brains in a positive manner or in a negative manner? Personally, I am someone who believes almost everything can be fine in moderation, porn included.

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