Porn addiction: Binging on adult entertainment can rewire the brain to a more child-like state leaving addicts prone to poor decisions

Porn could affect the prefrontal cortex — a part of the brain which controls morality, willpower and impulse control. This region is underdeveloped in children, explaining why they have trouble controlling their impulses and emotions


                            Porn addiction: Binging on adult entertainment can rewire the brain to a more child-like state leaving addicts prone to poor decisions

Watching porn can erode a region of the brain, turning it into a more child-like state. As a result, viewers are prone to make poor decisions, according to Rachel Anne Barr, a researcher at Neuroscience, Université Laval, Canada.

Barr's work shows that binging on porn could affect the prefrontal cortex — a part of the brain which controls morality, willpower and impulse control. This region is underdeveloped in children, explaining why they have trouble controlling their impulses and emotions.

"The properties of video porn make it a particularly powerful trigger for plasticity, the brain's ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. Combined with the accessibility and anonymity of online porn consumption, we are more vulnerable than ever to its hyper-stimulating effects," Barr writes in The Conversation.

The traffic that porn websites get is ballooning, thanks to the advent of the internet. Pornhub, the world's largest free porn site, received over 33.5 billion site visits during 2018 alone, she says. 

Some scientists believe the effects of porn consumption and substance abuse could be similar, as both users experience addiction issues. This is because porn scenes, like addictive substances, lead to unnaturally high levels of a chemical called dopamine in the brain, experts argue.

The chemical, most often associated with reward anticipation, also acts to program memories and information into the brain. According to Barr, this adaption means that when the body requires something, like food or sex, the brain remembers where to return to experience the same pleasure.

Further, such high levels could make people unresponsive to natural sources of pleasure such as achieving erection or orgasm with a real life partner, according to a study on internet pornography addiction.

These effects translate into sexual dysfunction, with users experiencing low sexual desire and erectile dysfunction. It also jeopardizes marital quality and commitment.

Recent studies on erectile dysfunction and low sexual desire show a sharp increase in the prevalence of such dysfunctions in men under 40, corresponding to the rise of the internet. The first report on pornography-induced erectile-dysfunction (PIED) and pornography-induced abnormally low libido came out in 2007.

This is not all. Studies show that these changes can give rise to depression and anxiety. It is also observed that porn consumers report greater depressive symptoms, lower quality of life and poorer mental health compared to those who don’t watch porn.

According to Barr, it is "somewhat paradoxical" that adult entertainment may revert the brain wiring to a more juvenile state. "The much greater irony is that while porn promises to satisfy and provide sexual gratification, it delivers the opposite," she says.

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