Brain Studies on Porn Users

Max Planck Institute logoRecent studies assessing brain structure & functioning of internet porn users:

  1. Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn (2014) - A German study which found 3 significant addiction-related brain changes correlating with the amount of porn consumed. It also found that more porn use correlated with less reward circuit activation while viewing sexual photos. Researchers stated their findings indicated desensitization, and possibly tolerance, the need for greater stimulation.
  2. Cambridge University logoNeural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014) - The first in a series of Cambridge University studies found the same brain activity as seen in drug addicts and alcoholics. It also found that porn addicts fit the accepted addiction model of wanting "it" more, but not liking "it" more. The researchers also reported that 60% of subjects (average age: 25) had difficulty achieving erections/arousal with real partners, yet could achieve erections with porn.
  3. Enhanced Attentional Bias towards Sexually Explicit Cues in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014) - The second Cambridge University study: "Our findings of enhanced attentional bias... suggest possible overlaps with enhanced attentional bias observed in studies of drug cues in disorders of addictions. These findings converge with recent findings of neural reactivity to sexually explicit cues in [porn addicts] in a network similar to that implicated in drug-cue-reactivity studies and provide support for incentive motivation theories of addiction underlying the aberrant response to sexual cues in [porn addicts].'

These study results are consistent with 100+ internet addiction brain studies, many of which also include internet porn use. In short, there's ample (and growing) peer-reviewed scientific support for the addiction model.

Start here for a brief overview of concepts & science

This article is a short synopsis of some key concepts. For the science behind it, please follow all the links and read this page. Some links go to our articles, which in turn link to studies. For a more in-depth understanding and further evidence see The Research Page. For specific content explore Porn FAQs.

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What happens when you drop a male rat into a cage with a receptive female rat? First, you see a frenzy of copulation. Then, progressively, the male tires of that particular female. Even if she wants more, he has had enough. However, replace the original female with a fresh one, and the male immediately revives and gallantly struggles to fertilize her.

Gary's TEDx talk - "The Great Porn Experiment"

Captions also available for 한국의, Chinese, Português, Czech, Deutsch, Estonian, עברית, Hungarian, Italian, Polski, Serbian, Slovak. To see them, click on the 'YouTube' logo to watch on YOUTube. Then, when you get there, click on "CC" for captions (bottom right of screen). Ver YBOP series in Español. Make captions in your own language!

Age 40 - Gay man: PIED progress. Keep at it folks - this really works!!

holding handsAnother satisfied NoFap customer :) I have to say this has been much easier than I expected so far. I've been fapping to porn since college, and I've had problems with ED and DE since my mid 20s which I attributed more to mild use of SSRIs than anything else.

Age 20 - More confident, less brain fog

confident guy with girlAt the start it just sort of hit me that I was addicted to PMO and I decided to just stop doing it. I've had urges and I've been close to relapse a few times but I haven't actually relapsed. I look back now and it seemed all so easy.

ED cured - A wonderful feeling, a personal life achievement

happy guyIt's been two full years since I discovered that porn was the reason for my ED, and it's been 2 years of a freakin mental struggle regarding my sexuality and coming to terms with what I needed to do, how to overcome my habits.

Analysis of "Modulation of late positive potentials by sexual images in problem users and controls inconsistent with 'porn addiction' (2015)", by SPAN Lab


Hyperbole & Inaccurate Claims

Let's start with the lead author's hyperbole. Nicole Prause, boldly claimed on her SPAN lab website that this solitary study "debunks porn addiction":

What researcher would ever claim to debunk an entire field of research and to refute all previous studies with a single EEG study?

Research confirms enormous rise in youthful ED

worried guy in bedroom with girl If we compare recent research to earlier studies, young men today are experiencing anywhere from a 600% to 3000% increase in ED since the advent of the internet. All studies assessing young male sexuality since 2012 report a tremendous rise in erectile dysfunction and low libido.

Age 36 - Married, ED, enjoying sex so much more

happy coupleQuick summary: Married for 15 years, addicted to Porn/Fapping for 25 years. Random occasions of ED.

Review: Sex Addiction as a Disease: Evidence for Assessment, Diagnosis, and Response to Critics (2015)

Journal coverCOMMENTS: This is a new review published in the July 2015 issue of "Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention." Although we cannot reproduce the entire paper, below is a table containing criticisms of sex addiction and the authors' responses with citations.

Doing this for PIED, but fetishes disappeared. Along with many other changes. It's a bit scary.

fresh startThis is the longest I've ever gone without porn since I discovered it many years ago. Even during my longer NoFap streaks I never went this long without at least watching some softcore stuff or hentai which would then--big surprise--quickly escalate again.

Age 26 - ED & fetish porn: Not like a sex machine, but at least I stay on the scene

Italian flagGreetings from Italy fellow rebooters! I'll start off by saying that I quit porn exactly two years ago (started reboot on 01/08/2013) and I feel like sharing my success story with you guys.

"What Happens When Children Watch Porn", by Addiction.com

What Happens When Children Watch PornToday’s high-intensity, no-holds-barred Internet porn has sex addiction therapists scrambling to stay current, and some are noting a curious trend. In the past, individuals suffering from porn addiction nearly always reported a history of trauma. That is, the porn-addicted client stumbled onto porn at some point and found that it soothed anxiety and other emotional problems caused by early physical or emotional abuse. But some therapists working with today’s compulsive porn users believe they are seeing a new type of porn abuser:

Link to original article

Age 29 - It's worth it, and a lot more fun than feeling depressed!

eye contact is funAt 13 we got the internet at home, back in the days of dial-up, with mainly pictures and really crappy videos on the free sites. I wasn’t the most confident person, and I was incredibly shy when it came to speaking to girls, but overall, I was fairly popular at school, and pretty happy

Age 35 - Erections: it's the way nature intended it to be

flirty coupleI am currently in my longest streak of freedom so far, around 4 months. I stopped doing it because I felt that it wasn't giving me anything and was taking from me too much. Looking back, I realize how much masturbation has changed my behavior and influenced my choices.

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