Your Brain on Porn

Printer-friendly version

Start here: Evolution has not prepared your brain for today's porn

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.


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. You can repeat this process with fresh females until he is completely wiped out.

This is called the Coolidge effect—the automatic response to novel mates. Interestingly, men ejaculate more motile sperm and they do it more quickly when they view a novel porn star. This powerful automatic response to erotic novelty is what started you down the road to getting hooked on internet porn.

Studies linking porn use or porn/sex addiction to sexual dysfunctions, lower arousal, and lower sexual & relationship satisfaction

Reality Check - Regardless of what you may read in some journalistic accounts, multiple studies reveal a link between porn use and sexual performance problems, relationship and sexual dissatisfaction, and reduced brain activation to sexual stimuli.

Let's start with sexual dysfunctions. Studies assessing young male sexuality since 2010 report historic levels of sexual dysfunctions, and startling rates of a new scourge: low libido. Documented in this lay article and in this peer-reviewed paper involving 7 US Navy doctors - Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports (2016)

Brain Studies on Porn Users

This page lists all the studies assessing the brain structure and functioning of Internet porn users. To date every study offers support for the porn addiction model (no studies falsify the porn addiction model). The results of these 37 neurological studies (and upcoming studies) are consistent with 230+ Internet addiction "brain studies", many of which also include internet porn use. All support the premise that internet porn use can cause addiction-related brain changes, as do 13 recent neuroscience-based reviews of the literature:

Studies linking porn use to poorer mental-emotional health & poorer cognitive outcomes

Many individuals who cease using porn for an extended period of time report mental and cognitive benefits, such as improved concentration and focus, better grades, increased energy and motivation, social anxiety improved or gone, increased confidence, improved mood, depression reduced or gone, greater desire to be social, more intense or vibrant emotions, and increased desire to be in a loving relationship.

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

Captions also available for other languages, including 한국의, Chinese, Português, Czech, Deutsch, Estonian, עברית, Hungarian, Italian, Polski, Serbian, Slovak. Vietamese. 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 34 – From insecure, awkward weirdo with brainfog to absolute clarity, energy and social ease

Background: 34, started MO around 13, luckily I didn't have high speed internet available then, so I used much tamer things as stimulation, like the occasional image on a calendar or matchbox packaging (do they still do those? :D) also ... fantasizing about girls I saw during the day. It all went downhill when I was around 19-20, moved to my own place, and got exposed to all kinds of online porn.

Age 19 - NoFap saved my life, anxiety now almost nonexistent

I discovered the sub half a year ago and gave it a shot. I've been changing for the better slowly but steadily ever since. I used to be inside all day, even going to the store would make me so anxious that I felt physically ill and sweaty the whole time. If someone made eye contact with me my eyes would tear up and I would escape the situation any way I could.

Age 21 – Helped save people during earthquake, my grades, body, mind and moral code have improved

I'm from Mexico and there was a huge earthquake and a building fell down, I helped two people escape. I couldn't have done it without Nofap, I just literally wanted to help. I believe a really long Nofap streak like mine gives you the extra benefit of really caring about other human beings besides your own.