Gary's TEDx talk - "The Great Porn Experiment" (2012)

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Comprehensive empirical support for "The Great Porn Experiment" (2012)

It’s important to note that The Great Porn Experiment was completed and sent to TEDx in December 2011, while the talk was given in March, 2012. This TEDx talk was a direct response to Philip Zimbardo's "Demise of Guys" TED talk, which the Glasgow audience viewed just prior to the talk.

Since December 2011, a large body of supporting research and clinical evidence has arrived to support The Great Porn Experiment's three primary assertions, which were:

  1. Internet porn can cause sexual dysfunctions;
  2. Internet porn use can lead to the 3 major addiction-related brain changes identified in substance addictions; and
  3. Internet porn use may exacerbate certain mental and emotional conditions (concentration problems, social anxiety, depression, etc.).  

The following is a short summary of empirical and clinical evidence supporting claims made in The Great Porn Experiment (See the above 2 pages for slide-by-slide support).

1) Internet porn use can cause sexual dysfunctions:

2) Internet porn use can lead to the 3 major addiction-related brain changes identified in substance addictions:

The Great Porn Experiment listed ten internet addiction “brain studies,” which supported my thesis that internet addiction (and internet addiction subtypes such as gaming and porn) exists and involves the same fundamental mechanisms and brain changes as other addictions. This field of study is growing exponentially. As of 2017, there are some 280 internet addiction "brain studies." All of them report neurological findings and brain changes in internet addicts consistent with the addiction model (the list of Internet addiction "brain studies"). In addition, the design of several internet addiction studies supports the claim that internet use is causing (in some) symptoms such as depression, ADHD, anxiety, etc. The list of such studies: Studies demonstrating Internet use & porn use causing symptoms & brain changes.

The Great Porn Experiment described three major brain changes that occur with porn addiction: (1) Sensitization, (2) Desensitization, and (3) Dysfunctional prefrontal circuits (hypofrontality). Since March, 2012, much neurological research on porn users and porn addicts has been published. All three of these brain changes have been identified among the 39 neuroscience-based studies on frequent porn users and sex addicts:

  • Studies reporting sensitization or cue-reactivity in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21.
  • Studies reporting desensitization or habituation in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
  • Studies reporting poorer executive functioning (hypofrontality) or altered prefrontal activity in porn users/sex addicts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.

The 40 neuroscience-based studies (MRI, fMRI, EEG, neuropsychological, hormonal) provide strong support for the addiction model, as do the 17 recent literature reviews & commentaries by some of the top neuroscientists in the world.

I also described escalation or habituation in my TEDx talk (which can be an indication of addiction). Three studies have now asked porn users specifically about escalation into new genres or tolerance, confirming both (1, 2, 3). Employing various indirect methods, an additional 30 studies have reported findings consistent with habituation to "regular porn" or escalation into more extreme and unusual genres.

Finally, it wasn’t until 2017 that two research teams asked internet-porn users directly about withdrawal symptoms. Both reported withdrawal symptoms in “problematic porn users” (1, 2).

What about neurological studies that debunk porn addiction? There are none. While the lead author of Prause et al., 2015 claimed her lone EEG study falsified pornography addiction, six peer-reviewed papers disagree: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. The neuroscientists on these six papers state that Prause et al. actually found desensitization/habituation (consistent with the development of addiction), as less brain activation to vanilla porn (pictures) was related to greater porn use. Unbelievably, the Prause et al. team boldly claimed to have falsified the porn addiction model with a single paragraph taken from this 2016 "letter to the editor." In reality the Prause letter falsified nothing, as this extensive critique reveals: Letter to the editor “Prause et al. (2015) the latest falsification of addiction predictions" (2016).

But ‘porn addiction’ isn’t in the APA's DSM-5, right? When the APA last updated the manual in 2013 (DSM-5), it didn’t formally consider “internet porn addiction,” opting instead to debate “hypersexual disorder.” The latter umbrella term for problematic sexual behavior was recommended for inclusion by the DSM-5’s own Sexuality Work Group after years of review. However, in an eleventh-hour “star chamber” session (according to a Work Group member), other DSM-5 officials unilaterally rejected hypersexuality, citing reasons that have been described as illogical.

Just prior to the DSM-5’s publication in 2013, Thomas Insel, then Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, warned that it was time for the mental health field to stop relying on the DSM. Its "weakness is its lack of validity," he explained, and "we cannot succeed if we use DSM categories as the "gold standard." He added, "That is why NIMH will be re-orienting its research away from DSM categories." In other words, the NIMH planned to stop funding research based on DSM labels (and their absence).

Major medical organizations are moving ahead of the APA. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) hammered what should have been the final nail in the porn-addiction debate coffin in August, 2011, a few months before I prepared my TEDx talk. Top addiction experts at ASAM released their carefully crafted definition of addiction. The new definition makes some of the major points I made in my talk. Foremost, behavioral addictions affect the brain in the same fundamental ways as drugs do. In other words, addiction is essentially one disease (condition), not many. ASAM explicitly stated that sexual behavior addiction exists and must necessarily be caused by the same fundamental brain changes found in substance addictions.

The World Health Organization appears poised to set right the APA’s excessive caution. The next edition of its diagnostic manual, the ICD, is due out in 2018. The beta draft of the new ICD-11 includes a diagnosis for “Compulsive sexual behavior disorder,” as well as one for “Disorders due to addictive behaviors.”

3) Internet porn use may exacerbate certain mental and emotional conditions

The Great Porn Experiment described “The Other Porn Experiment” in which young men who eliminated porn use reported remission of emotional and cognitive problems. TGPE also described "arousal addiction" (internet addiction and its subtypes) exacerbating or causing symptoms such as brain fog, concentration problem, generalized anxiety, depression and social anxiety. As of 2017 there exist hundreds of correlative studies and a few dozen causation studies supporting this assertion.

In 2016 Gary Wilson published two peer-reviewed papers:



Since dopamine is paramount for learning what if the problem isn't porn but our shameful forgetting of it. Working memory studies show thickening of d1 receptor walls, you need that for sexual technique, even for masturbating. How often do we think about masturbating and porn indepth away from the cpu, never. What if the problem is a separation of self?

fear and aversion. And D1 and D2 sometimes have opposing effects and sometimes complimentary effects. On this site I discuss the role of dopamine role in salience, motivation and addiction.

When comes to the brain, it's not really about neurotransmitters or receptors, it's about which circuits are activated opr deactivated - which are functionally altered - as in learning and addiction.

I don't feel like a sex addict but when I get on the internet I feel like looking at everything. I know that makes me sound like a voyeur, gay, pervert, or whatever else but I get curious about whatever people put out there. Youtube, on line tv, and facebook, blur the lines and you think xvideos, youporn and pornhub are all the same. Then you start to think that when on these sites it's just like channel surfing only putting in searches. It's crazy but it has happened to me. I come here instead now and am looking for support to stay off internet porn.


I've got 11 days NoFap, now on Day 12, but I've got porn playing in my own mind. My own fantasies - I can't stop them.

This FAQ has a few suggestions - How do I cope with porn flashbacks?

I strongly suggest you post on forums where ther are guys going through the same things you are, such as this forum -

Get advice, thoughts, and support.

The fetishes and compulsions had been melting away, but I was getting more and more agitated and aggressive with my new girlfriend. She knows about the program and I told her maybe she should cut me off, block me online etc. I woke up at 3 AM with tears in my eyes - I hated who I was right then, so I masturbated - enough's enough. At 5AM I sent her a message saying I had masturbated twice, and now she and I are okay.

I still don't look at porn, I'm still recovering well, but now I have sex with my girlfriend - and I last forEVER! (It also helps that she seems to cum quickly and repeatedly). In any case, she's one of those instinctual women - she knows I was telling her the truth even when my head was muddled by hormones, she knows I'm alright now.

One of the fetishes came back a little, but like John Nash (A Beautiful Mind) I engage in a diet of the mind as best I can. I masturbate, but I avoid porn, and dammit - that's enough for me.

At about day 14 or so I gave up the NoFap - I just couldn't take it anymore. The person I was turning into, the way I was acting - it was upsetting to my girlfriend, and more so to me.

Now on Day 27 or so the problem is: the fetishes are coming back, the porn is in my own mind, I can't stop it, not completely, and I don't WANT them to come back.

I'm not sure what to do. Maybe if I limit the Fap to once a week, or Fap the day before I see my girlfriend - we always have sex anyway.

I'll have to discuss it with her. I'll HAVE to. She knows about this program and has been understanding, but I've got to let her know before I chose to turn back into that guy again. We have to talk about it.

Seriously, that's the best way man. Masturbating and having sex while rebooting is not rebooting at all. You need to cut everything for at least 9 months then you can do that.

How can I control the temptation/Urge To Watchin porn


Read tools for change and follow whatever suggestions seem appropriate. Need to change many aspects of your life, and habits, and replace porn with other activities. Join a forum.

This should be broadcast everywhere so that people know what is happening to their brains and that it is not a safe alternative to TV!


Hi Gary! I just started a german VIdeo Blog for the german NoFap folks, can you please promote it somewhere?

Here is the youtube channel:



German Resource:

Upon finding this site, I tried rebooting for a year although I masturbated occasionally throughout the year. No positive results occurred.
I then went a full 4 months without any PMO although I did attempt to have sex with my wife. No positive results occurred.
I then got frustrated with the lack of results and had a weekend of PMO.
I am now rebooting once again hoping for positive results.
I have 3 questions.
Is it harmful to look at clothed women at the gym or on television?
Is it harmful to attempt to have sex during the reboot?
What is the average time frame to be fully healed?
I want to be healed so bad but I'm very frustrated with the lack of positive results.
I am 54 years old and have been a long time porn watcher.
Thank you.

you have looked into other possible causes. It's rare for a 54 year old to need such a long time to recover.

As for your questions,

Is it harmful to look at clothed women at the gym or on television?


Is it harmful to attempt to have sex during the reboot?

No. But some guys limit orgasm by employing karezza. See -

What is the average time frame to be fully healed?

There is no average. I've seen from 2 weeks to over 2 years. But guys your age usually heal the fastest, so do explore all options.


I can't really think of any other causes. I do get good erections during sleep. I am 5'9' 160 lbs. I walk every day (mailman) and I go to the gym 3 times each week. I went to the doctor last week and all my blood work came back fine including testosterone. Do you have any other ideas?
Thank you!

How is your erection when you attempt to masturbate with porn? How does that compare with masturbating without porn?

My erection with porn is much better.

compare with your erection with a partner?

I can get a partial erection with my wife but it isn't firm enough to enter her.
So basically she gives me oral sex and I can climax with a partial erection.

better to porn than to a real person (or masturbation without porn), this indicates conditioning one's arousal to porn.  However, since you cannot achieve a full erection with porn (is that right?), we cannot say that your ED is porn-induced.

I don't have suggestions, but  once in a while a guy thinks it's PIED to later discover its related to a medical condition that's hard to diagnose.

  • A few ones mentioned by guys on YBR -
  • High prolactin
  • Adrenal exhaustion (not usually recognized by Western MD's). it's low cortisol and other hormones produced by the adrenal gland.
  • One guy was allergic to mold in his house.

AS for not being able to enter your wife, one can try soft entry, using lube/oil, and attempt to condition your arousal while inside of her.

But only a partial erection with my wife. My wife is attractive but we've been married 30 years. Could it be that my partial errection is due to the fact that we've been together so long?
My doctor did blood work for testosterone and hormones and both came back fine.

for PIED.

Could it be that my partial errection is due to the fact that we've been together so long?

A good erection with porn indicates it's not an organic problem. A poor erection without porn indicates you have wired your sexual arousal to porn.


and hope for success in the future?

or porn substitutes is the way to go for any man who wants a good sex life. No masturbation is the way to go if you have a partner and want to rewire your sexual arousal to a real person.

As for orgasm, I don't know. Many older men limit the frequency.

I'm 22 and I tried out the NoFap challenge last year and managed to get to day 16 on my first try and immediately relapsed. on my second try I managed to get to day 27 before relapsing HARD and then continued to give up on the NoFap. But it did teach me more about my body and after just that when it came to sex, if I hadn't PMO'd at least a day before seeing a girl, I'd be hard, whereas before it'd take me not PMO'ing for almost a week to have any sort of a substantial boner.

After the NoFap last year I started to PMO less frequently. But I started to venture into more obscure methods of O. Like Chaturbate and hardcore Transexual and Gay porn. But the thing is that is entirely outside of my sexual preference. It's at this point that I realised that I actually have a porn addiction. Today I'm 15 days into completely x'ing out porn and I have set up this challenge in a way where the only time I can masturbate is by thought alone or nude pictures I have acquired from girls I actually talk to and I honestly feel like there's a genuine improvement in my overall mood and social interactions. I plan to start the NoFap again after I get 30 days in but...

My question is does pictures acquired from real actual women count as PMO?

And I would also like to congratulate myself for making this post rather than watching porn.

your reboot looks like. It seems like a reasonable plan. I would give it a try for a while.

Be aware that there is a difference between pictures and fantasy. With pictures you are still in the observer position needing to view a body. This doesn't match sex. With fantasy, hopefully you will be fantasizing about engaging in typical sex. That is - placing yourself into the sexual scenario, rather than observing it. 

Anyhow, I think a lot of guys fail because they place the emphasis on not masturbating rather than giving up porn. Nofap is not a goal unto itself. It is just a temporary tool to readjust your sexuality.

I am looking for some advice and encouragement. I'm a 34 year old male. About 8 years ago, I began noticing that my erections were weakening during sex. I was watching a lot of porn at the time, but never thought to make the connection between the two. I couldn't even stay hard while I watched porn, and I'd spend hours just trying to find anything to make me hard. This condition made me very self-conscious, to the point that I would avoid real sex and opt for all things cyber, since I didn't have to feel the pain of humiliation when I couldn't rise for the occasion. I figured that my "dead dick" had something to do with all the Adderall I was taking, which I couldn't come off of because I was a graduate student. I eventually found a doctor to prescribe me Viagra, and this seemed to solve me problem. I never had to worry about whether or not I'd be able to get or stay hard. Best of all, it seemed that I could watch porn endlessly (without Viagra), and then pop a little blue pill and still show up for sex when I wanted it. Of course, I wanted it far less frequently when I was strung out on porn. My point is that Viagra worked for me. I hated being on it, though, because I felt like a fraud, and I didn't want to be on it for the rest of my life. Eventually, I got new insurance, which wouldn't cover Viagra, so I finally had the incentive to try to get off porn (I had found this website by that point, and was convinced that porn was my problem). I abstained from everything for 90 days. Then I had sex, and everything seemed to work fine. I did seem to struggle with PE a little, but that eventually went away once I started having sex more regularly. I was doing the whole "cold showers" routine and everything, and I was restricting my sex life to reality. If it wasn't real, I wouldn't engage. This included no fantasy sharing, sexting, or the like. I wanted to maintain my new-found sensitivity in the bedroom. Plus, I liked the confidence I'd found in myself by being able to stop that behavior. Of course, my boners were nothing like what I'd experienced while on Viagra, but they were sufficient. I got into a relationship with an awesome girl, who wants sex constantly. Then, it happened. I couldn't get hard one night. I chalked it up to being tired and tried to forget about it. Then it started happening more regularly. It was just like what I'd experienced 8 years ago, except I hadn't been watching any porn, and I was taking much better care of myself. I also started losing interest in having sex. I couldn't tell if this was because I didn't want to feel embarrassed or self-conscious, and I was just being avoidant, or if I was experiencing a true loss of libido. That was about a month and a half ago. Now, I can't even keep it up during one session of sex. At most I get about 80% hard, but then I lose my erection. I started to lose my motivation to not watch porn. I've looked at it a couple of times (3x to be exact) and fapped twice. I was just testing the PIED theory by trying to see if I'd even get hard to porn (dumb reasoning, I know), but I didn't even really get hard to porn. In fact, I had to really "work" at it to get anything accomplished. I'm just curious to know if this has happened to anyone else, or if it's all just success for everyone but me on this site. Also, I thought maybe someone would have some possible advice.

I want to say how important all this teaching and science has helped me. Prior to July 8th of 2015, I thought I was taking porn to me with the grave. I had all kinds of problems sexually. I love my fiancé, but I couldn't sustain an erection during sex. I also felt my life was out of control. I couldn't move forward. Every month or so, I'd do a flurry of work for a few days and then crash and burn. It was like that for a year. I wanted to commit suicide. But I'm not that victim anymore.

By accepting my agency, and conquering this addiction, I've changed my life. Daily, I'm blogging about the NoFap, Men's rights, and ideas in an anti-social Justice stance. I create comics including one called #GamerGate Trolls. My entire life changed. By taking control of my addiction, I took control over all my life!

you found the material helpful. Congratulations on your progress.

I thought I was healed after 6 months just because I didnt watch porn anymore. Occasionally I would masturbate after sex which is a negative habit that ive connected with pmo.
I started experiencing morning wood but it wasnt often but my sex game was getting better and better and i was lasting alot longer then normal. Then one day curiosity came and i wondered about looking at porn when i came across some on the dark web. I said what the hell im bored anyway, so i watched it. No big deal. Then two weeks later I ended up watching it again, then i said okay thats enough. But the truth was I couldnt stop. Ive learned that curiosity will kill the shit out of a cat! What i didnt know is that the healthy practices/ritual that I was doing daily should had never been stopped when I thought I was healed. Now I understand that this a total lifestyle change and to never let up on the healing process. Stay active and busy. Always get out of the house as much as possible. Thats the plan for me. #3days clean