Our response to Rory Reid’s “critique” of Nicole Prause 2013 EEG study (Steele et al., 2013)


Below is the YBOP July, 2013 response to Critique of Prause Study by Rory C. Reid, PhD (Department of Psychiatry, University of California, Los Angeles). Why have we written a response to Rory Reid’s critique of Nicole Prause’s “Sexual Desire, not Hypersexuality, is Related to Neurophysiological Responses Elicited by Sexual Images“? Because it is not a critique at all. Instead, it is a veiled defense of the Prause EEG study (Steele et al., 2013). The first give away is that Rory Reid mentions Gary Wilson ten times in his  so-called “critique”. Second, Reid states 3 times that Gary Wilson’s Psychology Today blog post analyzing Prause’s study is no longer published. Both Reid and Prause know very well why it’s missing: Prause pressured Psychology Today to remove not only Wilson’s post, but this post by two other bloggers. Finally, Rory Reid’s critique fails to address any of our major points, or explain away Prause’s misrepresentations to the press. Instead, Reid deflects criticism by mischaracterizing what the YBOP analysis actually said. Note: Rory Reid stated that his UCLA office is right next door to Prause’s (and the two use to be roommates).

UPDATE: Before we get to Rory Reid’s critique and Steele et al.‘s actual findings, much has transpired since July, 2013. UCLA did not renew Nicole Prause’s contract (around January, 2015). No longer an academic Prause has accumulated a long history of harassing and defaming Gary Wilson and others, including researchers, medical doctors, therapists, psychologists, former UCLA colleagues, a UK charity, men in recovery, a TIME magazine editor, several professors, IITAP, SASH, Fight The New Drug, the academic journal Behavioral Sciences, its parent company MDPI, the head of the academic journal CUREUS, and the journal Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity. See: Documentation of Nicole Prause libeling and harassing Gary Wilson & many others (and now a second page and a third page).

Important point: While Prause continues to falsely claim she is “the victim,” it is Prause who initiated all contact and harassment towards the individuals and organizations listed on this page. No one on the preceding pages list has harassed Nicole Prause. Her fabricated claims about being a victim of “stalking” or misogyny from “anti-porn activists” lack one iota of documentation. All the evidence she provides is self-generated: a single info-graphic, a few emails from her to others describing harassment, and five spurious cease and desist letters containing false allegations. You will also see evidence of a number of formal complaints Prause has filed with various regulatory agencies – which have been summarily dismissed or investigated and dismissed. She seems to file these bogus complaints so she can then go on to claim her targets are all “under investigation.”

Prause provides no concrete examples of being the target of cyber-stalking whether they by tweet, Facebook, or links to pages on YBOP. On the other hand, Prause’s Twitter feed alone once contained hundreds of libelous and inaccurate tweets targeting Wilson and many others (Prause has since deleted about 3,000 such tweets). Put simply, Prause has created a mythology with zero verifiable evidence, while closely aligned with the pornography industry, as can be seen from this image of her (far right) on the red carpet of the X-Rated Critics Organization (XRCO) awards ceremony. (According to Wikipedia, the XRCO Awards are given by the American X-Rated Critics Organization annually to people working in adult entertainment and it is the only adult industry awards show reserved exclusively for industry members.[1]) For much more documentation, see: Is Nicole Prause Influenced by the Porn Industry?).

Our Response to Rory Reid (July, 2013):

We’re glad to see a response to the questions we raised, even if it poses as a critique of Prause’s work while only critiquing her critics. As most of  the points we raised have been ignored, or spun to have a different meaning, we’d like Dr. Reid to ask Dr. Prause to answer the following additional questions:

1) Why did you spin it that your findings indicated hypersexuality was really “high” desire” when your study found greater brain activation correlated with low sexual desire? Note Prause’s wording in this interview:

What is the main finding in your study?

“We found that the brain’s response to sexual pictures was not predicted by any of three different questionnaire measures of hypersexuality. Brain response was only predicted by a measure of sexual desire. In other words, hypersexuality does not appear to explain brain differences in sexual response any more than just having a high libido.

But that didn’t happen, as John Johnson PhD explained in this peer-reviewed rebuttal:

‘The single statistically significant finding says nothing about addiction. Furthermore, this significant finding is a negative correlation between P300 and desire for sex with a partner (r=−0.33), indicating that P300 amplitude is related to lower sexual desire; this directly contradicts the interpretation of P300 as high desire. There are no comparisons to other addict groups. There are no comparisons to control groups. The conclusions drawn by the researchers are a quantum leap from the data, which say nothing about whether people who report trouble regulating their viewing of sexual images have or do not have brain responses similar to cocaine or any other kinds of addicts’

2) Dr. Prause, why did you mention a “within-subject” control group as this is irrelevant to the Steele et al.‘s only stated results:

“Larger P300 amplitude differences to pleasant sexual stimuli, relative to neutral stimuli, was negatively related to measures of sexual desire, but not related to measures of hypersexuality.”

Translation: Individuals with greater cue-reactivity to porn had lower desire to have sex with a partner (but not lower desire to masturbate). To put another way: individuals with more brain activation and cravings for porn would rather masturbate to porn than have sex with a real person. Irrelevant to Prause’s so-called “within-subject” control group.

3) Dr. Prause, why did you make unsupported claims in your Psychology Today interview and elsewhere? The Psychology Today interview:

What was the purpose of the study?

Prause: Our study tested whether people who report such problems look like other addicts from their brain responses to sexual images. Studies of drug addictions, such as cocaine, have shown a consistent pattern of brain response to images of the drug of abuse, so we predicted that we should see the same pattern in people who report problems with sex if it was, in fact, an addiction.

Does this prove sex addiction is a myth?

If our study is replicated, these findings would represent a major challenge to existing theories of sex “addiction”. The reason these findings present a challenge is that it shows their brains did not respond to the images like other addicts to their drug of addiction.

The above claims that subjects brains did not “respond like other addicts is without support. In Steele et al., subjects had higher EEG (P300) readings when viewing sexual images – which is exactly what occurs when addicts view images related to their addiction (as in this study on cocaine addicts). Commenting under the Psychology Today interview of Prause, senior psychology professor emeritus John A. Johnson said:

“My mind still boggles at the Prause claim that her subjects’ brains did not respond to sexual images like drug addicts’ brains respond to their drug, given that she reports higher P300 readings for the sexual images. Just like addicts who show P300 spikes when presented with their drug of choice. How could she draw a conclusion that is the opposite of the actual results? I think it could be due to her preconceptions–what she expected to find.”

4) Dr, Prause, what was the correlation between the EEG data and all 14 questions on the Sexual Desire Inventory (SDI)? I’ll answer: there was no significant correlation. The study duly reports the solo-sex desire figures, but has this conclusion:

Conclusion: Implications for understanding hypersexuality as high desire, rather than disordered, are discussed.

Why is the world would you claim “high desire” when subjects with greater cue-reactivity had lower desire for sex with a partner. In addition, the phrase “sexual desire” is repeated 63 times in the study, and the study’s title (Sexual Desire, Not Hypersexuality….) implies that higher brain activation to cues was associated with higher sexual desire. Moreover, all the headlines shouted that “sex addiction” was really high desire? But it wasn’t high desire!

5) Dr. Reid says, “One issue I might raise is my discomfort with Mr. Wilson’s dismissal of EEG as a technology.” Where did we dismiss EEG as a technology? In fact, our reply has links to 2 studies that used EEGs narrowly and competently in investigating substance addictions. We merely pointed out that, unlike chemical addictions, sexual-behavior addictions entail multiple cognitive inputs. Making broad claims based on EEG activation is reckless because of the inherent limitations of the technology.

6) Dr, Prause, where is the evidence that “dyadic interest alone” is commonly used as a measure of “sexual desire?” You keep claiming this, but the only support the study offers for this claim contradicts her claim (study 1, study 2. Moreover, so do comments from one of the SDI’s developers, Ilana Spector, whom we contacted in an effort to understand Prause’s claims (once we found the studies cited in it contradicted them). Spector, who assured us that the SDI is intended to be administered as a single unit, said, “The scale was only validated using ALL the items both solitary and dyadic…. The scale was not designed to be used [as it was here] nor was it validated that way.”

7) Dr. Prause, surely you know standard protocol for an addiction study assessing cue-induced brain activity. Why then were the subjects men and women, including 7 non-heterosexuals? Study after study confirms that men and women have significantly different brain responses to sexual images or films. Valid addiction brain studies involve homogenous subjects: same sex, same sexual orientation, along with similar ages and IQ’s. This alone discounts your findings.

8) Dr. Prause, how can your justify non-heterosexuals in an experiment with only heterosexual porn – and then draw vast conclusions from a (predictable) lack of correlation? This also calls your results into question.

9) Dr. Prause, why were your subjects not pre-screened? Valid addiction brain studies screen individuals for pre-existing conditions (depression, OCD, other addictions, etc.). This also calls your results into question.

10) Dr. Prause, why did you use the SCS (Sexual Compulsivity Scale) when it  isn’t a valid assessment test for Internet-porn addiction or for women? It was created in 1995 and designed with uncontrolled sexual relations in mind (in connection with investigating the AIDS epidemic). Again, this alone explains why there were no correlations between P300 readings and the SCS.

Back to the Sexual Desire Inventory (SDI), and Rory Reid’s claim that we somehow missed the Solitary SDI scores: “Mr. Wilson has attempted to assert that Dr. Prause has failed to sufficiently analyze an SDI subscale used in her study“. Read what we actually said, starting here. We clearly stated that no correlation existed when the entire SDI was used. This is a fact. While Steele et al reported a negative correlation between EEG readings and the partnered SDI questions, this finding manifested itself as a misleading study title and false headlines about “sexual desire“. The actual results from the study:

“Larger P300 amplitude differences to pleasant sexual stimuli, relative to neutral stimuli, was negatively related to measures of sexual desire, but not related to measures of hypersexuality.”

Translation: Individuals with greater cue-reactivity to porn had lower desire to have sex with a partner (but not lower desire to masturbate). To put another way – individuals with more brain activation and cravings for porn would rather masturbate to porn than have sex with a real person. Quite different from the interviews and headlines.

Click to enlarge Table 2

First, the “Note” says the Solitary test score range is  “3-26,” and yet the female mean exceeds it. It’s 26.46–literally off the charts. What happened?

More important, however, if SPAN Lab had actually measured “sexual desire” using the full SDI, its researchers would have added the very high overall masturbation-desire mean score of 23.92 (out of 26) to the partnered-desire mean score of 58 (of a possible 70). Thus, the true “sexual desire” mean score was a whopping 82 (of a possible 96).

What happens when one compares the actual (14-question) “sexual desire inventory” results with the EEG data? There’s no significant correlation at all. No unrealistic claims about dismantling the concept of “sexual addiction,” no daring media blitz, and no need for all the behind-the-scenes intimidation to try to shore up a flawed finding. In short, Steele et al. findings of little correlation between EEG readings and questionnaires would have been a uninteresting null finding (easily explained by other methodological weaknesses).

It’s important to note that the study contains a second error in regard to the SDI: “The SDI measures levels of sexual desire using two scales composed of seven items each.” In fact, the Sexual Desire Inventory contains nine partnered questions, four solitary questions, and one question that cannot be categorized (#14). The lively media blitz, which accompanied publication of this study, bases its attention-grabbing headlines on partial SDI results. Yet the study write-up contains glaring errors about the SDI itself, which do not engender confidence in the researchers.

Psychology Today and Nicole Prause

Yes, our Psychology Today post was taken down. It’s our understanding that it was removed due to groundless legal threats against “Psychology Today,” coming from Dr. Prause herself. In fact, a day later, PT removed an earlier post of ours…about another SPAN Lab study. The only posts we have had removed in 4 years of blogging are posts relating to Prause. Hmm. Science thrives on open debate, not this kind of behind-the-scenes intimidation.

Dr. Reid (above) twice linked to our former post on “Psychology Today” (which now shows an unpublished page) and suggested that it had been deleted due to “Psychology Today’s” belief that it contained errors. Given that we ourselves have received malicious, unfounded legal threats from Dr. Prause, we very much doubt this.

Although we hate to make summaries of emails public, in this case, we feel it is necessary so that interested readers may obtain a fuller picture of Dr. Prause’s tactics. See the entire exchange of emails between us and her (below). These occurred months ago, in April, 2013, when she “leaked” an unpublished, not-yet-reviewed version of this study (only) to sympathetic blogger David Ley, author of The Myth of Sex Addiction. She later had “Psychology Today” remove our reply. Incidentally, we then asked “Psychology Today” editors to remove Ley’s post based on the leaked study (which Prause had refused to make available to others), and “Psychology Today” did remove it. (Judge for yourself:  Click here to see David Ley’s blog post, our reply blog post, and the comments below our post – including Gary’s exchange with Nicole Prause.)

When the final study came out, Prause enlisted Brian Mustanski to post a favorable interview, where Prause could “spin” her results to her liking. We posted a reply to his post, and that’s what Prause had “Psychology Today” remove.

Keep in mind that Prause had plenty of opportunity to comment on our reply blogs about her two studies (both of which can be found on Porn Study Critiques. Instead, she has chosen not to take us on directly. Now, she has hidden behind Dr. Reid’s website commentary, where no direct reply from critics is permitted.

UPDATE: Since this page was first created Prause has continued to target Gary Wilson and others, including researchers, medical doctors, therapists, psychologists, colleagues from her short stint at UCLA, a UK charity, men in recovery, a TIME magazine editor, several professors, IITAP, SASH, Fight The New Drug, Exodus Cry, the academic journal Behavioral Sciences, its parent company MDPI, the head of the academic journal CUREUS, and the journal Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity. See: Nicole Prause’s Unethical Harassment and Defamation of Gary Wilson & Others

UPDATE: Around January 2015: Nicole Prause is no longer employed by UCLA or any other academic institution.

UPDATE: There are now 8 peer-reviewed analyses of Steele et al., 2013. All align with the following YBOP critique. All describe how the findings of Steele et al., 2013 lend support to the porn addiction model. Paper #1 is solely devoted to Steele et al. Papers 2-8 contain sections analyzing Steele et al., 2013:

  1. ‘High Desire’, or ‘Merely’ An Addiction? A Response to Steele et al. (2014), by Donald L. Hilton, Jr., MD
  2. Peer-reviewed analysis: “Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours” (2014)
  3. Peer-reviewed critique: “Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update” (2015)
  4. Peer-reviewed: Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports (2016)
  5. Peer-reviewed analysis: “Conscious and Non-Conscious Measures of Emotion: Do They Vary with Frequency of Pornography Use?” (2017)
  6. Peer-reviewed analysis: Neurocognitive mechanisms in compulsive sexual behavior disorder (2018)
  7. Peer-reviewed critique: “Online Porn Addiction: What We Know and What We Don’t—A Systematic Review” (2019)
  8. Peer-reviewed analysis: “The Initiation and Development of Cybersex Addiction: Individual Vulnerability, Reinforcement Mechanism and Neural Mechanism” (2019)

Nicole Prause – Gary Wilson email exchange:

March 5, 2013

Author of “The Myth of Sex Addiction,” David Ley, and Nicole Prause team up to write a Psychology Today blog post with the strategic title: “Your Brain on Porn – It’s NOT Addictive.” (Your Brain On Porn is a website founded by Wilson.) It was about Nicole Prause’s unpublished, yet to be peer-reviewed EEG study (“Sexual desire, not hypersexuality, is related to neurophysiological responses elicited by sexual images”).

It’s important to note that only Ley received access to Prause’s unpublished study (it was published 5 months later). The blog post linked to Wilson’s ‘Your Brain on Porn’ website and suggested that YBOP was in favor of banning porn (untrue).

  • Key point: Five months before Prause’s EEG study (Steele et al., 2013) was published, both Prause and Ley were targeting Gary Wilson and his website.

March 7, 2013

Wilson published a Psychology Today blog post responding to the content in the David Ley post. Ley’s blog post and Wilson’s response were eventually removed by Psychology Today editors, as the underlying study wasn’t yet available. You can find the original Ley and Wilson blog posts archived here. It’s important to note that Wilson’s blog post clearly states it was only responding to Ley’s description of the Prause study. Later Nicole Prause would falsely accuse Wilson of misrepresenting her study (that only she and Ley had seen, and were making public claims about – which were later shown to be unfounded).

March 7, 2013

Wilson posts under David Ley’s article requesting the study:

“Hey David – I’m wondering how you got your hands on a study that has yet to published, or mentioned anywhere else. Are you willing to send me a copy?”

David Ley did not respond.

April 10, 2013

In response to the above comment, Prause contacted the Psychology Today editors and emailed Wilson the following. In the email, Prause attacks Wilson personally, and mistakenly states that he did not ask for the study. He had, in fact, asked David Ley for it. The email:

Psychology Today ([email protected])
To: [email protected]

From: Nicole Prause <nprause@________>
Dear Mr. Wilson,

It is illegal for you to misrepresent our science having never even requested a copy of the manuscript. It will be treated as such. Our article actually is very balanced. Unlike you, I have peer-reviewed publications on both sides of this issue. You have attempted to discredit it by describing things that were not done. I am pursuing this with Psychology Today now, but I would advise  you to remove the post yourself before I am forced to pursue further action.

You also do not have permission to quote any portion of this email. It is private communication.

Sell your books on your own merit. Don’t try to make money off the backs of scientists doing their jobs. I can tell this study clearly panics you because  the design and data are strong, but it is egregious to have not even asked  for a copy of the manuscript and just make up content. Shame on you.

Nicole Prause, PhD
Research faculty

In addition, Psychology Today editors forwarded a second email from Prause:

Date: April 10, 2013 5:13:30 PM EDT
Topic: Comment on the Blogs

From: Nicole Prause, PhD <nprause@_____________

To whom it may concern:

I was surprised to see an article written about a study of mine by Gary Wilson on Psychology Today.

I have no problem with him representing his own views and interpretations of studies, but he does not and could not have had access to mine. It is under review and he never requested a copy from any of the authors. I notified him that it should be removed. He has not yet done so. Of course, once it is public record, he will have access to it and be able to represent it (hopefully) more accurately.

Of course, knowingly misrepresenting a person to denigrate them is illegal. I hope Psychology Today will take this matter seriously. I will contact other board members as well, in case your cue is full and may take longer to respond.

Thank you for your help in resolving this matter.

Nicole Prause, PhD

The groundless legal threats, false claims, and playing the victim begin in her very first contact with Wilson. Nothing Prause says is true:

  1. Wilson did not describe Prause’s study or misrepresent it in any way. He only responded to Ley’s description of the study. Read Ley’s and Wilson’s blog posts and judge for yourself.
  2. To this day Prause has yet to refute a single word in Wilson’s March, 2013 Psychology Today post, or the analysis Wilson wrote in July after her EEG study finally was published. Nor has Prause refuted a single word in four peer-reviewed critiques of her 2013 EEG study (1, 2, 3, 4.).
  3. Wilson makes no money off of this endeavor.
  4. Wilson asked for a copy of the study (Prause refused to supply it).
  5. Prause initiated all contact with Wilson.

Wilson’s email response to Nicole Prause:

On Wed, Apr 10, 2013 at 3:14 PM, gary wilson <> wrote:

Hi Nicole,

I commented under your comment. Have a look.

We make no money on this. My website has no advertising and we accept no donations. We have no services to sell. I have no book to sell. My wife’s book, which appears on PT, is not about porn.

If you want to be truly fair, please send us the full study and give us permission to blog about it – as you did with Dr. Ley.

I’ll be anticipating your study,

Gary Wilson

April 12, 2013

Two days later Prause contacted Wilson again threatening further legal action. She somehow tracked down one of Wilson’s comments on the porn-recovery site Your Brain Rebalanced. It was posted on a long thread about David Ley’s original blog post. Wilson’s comment was meant to explain why both Ley’s and Wilson’s Psychology Today posts had been removed by Psychology Today. This signaled Prause’s pattern of cyberstalking, as a not even a Google search could locate that post. How did Prause know about this thread on a porn recovery forum?

The Prause email:

Nicole Prause (nprause@_______)

Dear Mr. Wilson,

In your post: http://yourbrainrebalanced.com/index.php?topic=7522.50
You falsely claim: “I responded to her rather nasty emails with a request to see her study, and she refused.”

This is libel. Please remove this post or I will follow up with legal action.

Nicole Prause

Wilson responds:

On Fri, Apr 12, 2013 at 11:09 AM, gary wilson <> wrote:

Dear Nicole Prause,

Maybe you didn’t know that my wife is a graduate of Yale law school.  I said nothing libelous. In fact, my statements are quite accurate.

1) You have refused to hand over your unpublished study.

2) You were nasty and threatening, as you are now.

3) In addition, you falsely stated that I make money from guys struggling to recover from porn addiction.

4) You also mischaracterized my PT post, as it was a clear response to David Ley’s description of your unpublished study. You chose not correct Ley’s description or make the full study available to me, even when I asked about it in the comment section one month ago.

You have yet to answer my original questions (posed in the comments section):

1) Why did you release your study to only David Ley? As the author of the “Myth of Sex Addiction,” and someone who claims porn addiction cannot exist, why was only he the only Chosen One?

2) Why haven’t you corrected David Ley’s interpretation of your study? It has been up for over a month, and you’ve commented twice on it in the last month.

3) You commented under Ley’s post one month ago. I immediately posted a comment under you comment, with several specific questions directed to you about your study. That was your chance to both respond and offer the study. You did neither. Why?

I’m fine with making our exchange public. Won’t it be interesting when you file a lawsuit against a couple of PT bloggers who dare to take on your research?

Gary Wilson

Prause emails again with more crazy claims & legal threats [Note: Neither Wilson nor his wife ever initiated contact with Prause. She is the one who repeatedly contacted them and threatened them with groundless legal action.]

From: nprause@_________ Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2013 15:01:09 -0700
Subject: Re: [PT] Inquiry via Psychology Today

Dear Gary,

This is to notify both you and your wife that your (both you and your wife’s) contact is unwanted. Per stalking statutes in your home state (http://courts.oregon.gov/Lane/Restraining.page), any additional harassing contact will be interpreted as actionable harassment.

You do not have my permission to share this private communication in any forum.

Nicole Prause

Wilson sends his final email to Prause, to set the record straight: that she is the one initiating all contact and the only person making threats (and false claims):

From: [email protected]

To: nprause Subject: RE: [PT] Inquiry via Psychology Today

Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2013 15:44:12 -0700

Dear Nicole Prause,

Harassment? I have not initiated one email exchange with you, including this one.
The first, initiated by you on 4/10/13, where you had the last email. And the one below, where you are trying to create a false impression that someone is harassing you, when in fact you are threatening me for the second time.

You are also the one who contacted Psychology Today’s editor to interfere with my blog post. My wife has had no contact with you whatsover.

We do not need your permission.

Gary Wilson

This was just the beginning for Nicole Prause. See:

  1. Nicole Prause’s Unethical Harassment and Defamation of Gary Wilson & Others
  2. Nicole Prause’s Unethical Harassment and Defamation of Gary Wilson & Others (Page 2)
  3. Nicole Prause’s Unethical Harassment and Defamation of Gary Wilson & Others (Page 3)
  4. Victims of Nicole Prause’s Malicious Reporting and Malicious Use of Process.
  5. Nicole Prause & David Ley libelous claim that Gary Wilson was fired from Southern Oregon University
  6. Prause’s efforts to have Behavioral Sciences review paper (Park et al., 2016) retracted
  7. Article by University of Wisconsin student newspaper (The Racquet) posts false police report by Nicole Prause (March, 2019)
  8. Aggressive Trademark Infringement Waged by Porn Addiction Deniers (www.realyourbrainonporn.com)
  9. Nicole Prause, David Ley & @BrainOnPorn’s long history of harassing & defaming Alexander Rhodes of NoFap
  10. Nicole Prause & David Ley commit perjury in Don Hilton defamation lawsuit.
  11. Aggressive Trademark Infringement Waged by Porn Addiction Deniers (www.realyourbrainonporn.com)
  12. Realyourbrainonporn (Daniel Burgess, Nicole Prause) defamation/harassment of Gary Wilson: They “discover” fake porn URLs in the Internet Wayback Archive (August, 2019)
  13. RealYourBrainOnPorn tweets: Daniel Burgess, Nicole Prause & pro-porn allies create a biased website and social media accounts to support the porn industry agenda (beginning in April, 2019)