Mid-Term group 8

Angela Gonzalez 

How does pornography affect our brain?

“Pornographers promise healthy pleasure and relief from sexual tension, but what they often deliver is an addiction, tolerance, and an eventual decrease in pleasure.” (4) Although pornography is seen by many as a ‘healthy’ entertainment, it can become an addiction that controls a person’s life. In the past, factors that made people addicts were considered to be only substances that were inhaled into the body. Thus, pornography wasn’t considered a possible factor of addiction. However, studies have demonstrated that pornography alters the way our reward pathway system works in our brains; making pornography as addictive as any drug. Pornography can drive people to cross their moral limits, as it may change the sexual taste.  Yet, to be able to understand how can porn become an addiction is important to first understand the way our brain works in relation to addiction.

In our brain, there is a reward network, that evaluates anything that brings us satisfaction. After the information is evaluated, it is taken to the reward pathway center where “our sense of pleasure is first produced.” (1) Things like, “food, sex, drugs are all registered as delicious, as something we want more off,” it releases chemicals such as dopamine or adrenaline in our brains and these makes us feel good. (1)  Healthy people are able to control the need of this chemicals in their brain. Indeed, a person that is in control of their instincts and body can per say love sweets, but know that they have to control the intake as it could make them obese. Yet, while a healthy person can wait to satisfy the crave, people with addiction cannot. In an experiment made by the Cambridge University, MRI scans of the brain were made to those that considered themselves to be porn addicts and a control group.  In the experiment what was mainly observed was the reward center of the individuals while seeing strong pornographic videos, and the comparisons between the two groups were astounding.

Although, the reward center of the control group was definitely activated while watching pornography, “the compulsive user’s brain was twice as active, just as addicts responding to drugs and alcohol.” (1) The brain reacts to porn like it does with any other addictive substance, the more a person watches the more need it creates towards it. “Porn offers an endless stream of hyper-sexual images that flood the brain with high levels of dopamine every time the user clicks on a new image.” (1) At the beginning, everything is triggering and the brain reacts to it immediately. Yet, as the brain starts to get used to the images it perceives, the dopamine doses release are not the same. Thus, the brain begins to crave new things that can create the same activation of these chemicals in the brain. Here is where addiction starts, people with this problem create a dependence on porn as it makes them feel good; and they are always looking for more. Sexual addicts begin to explore new things crossing even their own moral limits  combining things like violence and pleasure and much more. (4)

These chemicals and sensations are important as they motivate us, giving a glimpse of happiness to the monotonous lives we sometimes live. Yet, food, drugs or indeed porn become an issue as we create a dependence on them. Thes addictions are most of the times related to intense emotions. Thus, to not fall into this habits that can destroy our life is important to be aware of how our feelings are making us react, and seek for help when there is need of it. Anything in extremes can become harmful for our body and mind.


  1. Porn on the Brain. Perf. Dr. Valerie Voon at Cambridge University. Youtube. N.p., 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.
  2. How Porn Affects the Brain. Fight the New Drug, 10 July 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.
  3. “Porn Addiction Recovery.” Cure the Craving. Youtube, 7 Sept. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.
  4. @FightTheNewDrug. “Home – Fight the New Drug.” Fight the New Drug. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.
  5. Hendriksen, Ellen. “Your Brain on Porn and Other Sexual Images.” Scientific American. N.p., 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

Mitchell Landeros

Further Analysis:

Pornography is the displaying of sexual activity intended to stimulate erotic instead of aesthetic feelings. Although it can bring temporary sexual pleasure; what is pornography doing to the brain in the long run? “A recent neurology study found that the more porn a man watched the less gray matter he had in his brain.” [1] Although some may argue that self-pleasure from pornography healthy, it can surely become addicting. “…all addictions create, in addition to chemical changes in the brain, anatomical and pathological.” [2] These changes usually result in the various manifestation of cerebral dysfunction best known as “hypo-frontal syndromes.”

A study in the prestigious journal JAMA Psychiatry showed that men who reported watching porn showed less volume and activity in the striatum (connected to reward processing and motivation). [1] As stated before, some may argue that porn can be healthy. However, the gray matter (intelligence) in males who watch pornography decreased. What supports this statement is the less processing and motivation the men who watch porn have. An additional observation that was made was “connectivity between the striatum and the prefrontal cortex (used for decision making, planning, and behavior regulation) weakened the more porn the men reported watching.” [1] In other words saying men who watch pornography have trouble with their everyday life. With your ability for decision making being weakened, one is unable to function productively throughout the day. Without being able to plan properly, one can easy be late to work, whether it’s public transportation or self-transportation. With their behavior regulation being compromised, they can end up with road range or just another angry subway rider.

Donald L. Hilton Jr. and Clark Watts stated that hypo-frontal syndromes (well known to neuroscientist) are seen in tumors, strokes, and trauma. Patients with traumatic injuries to the cortex display problems–aggressiveness, poor judgment of future consequences, inability to inhibit inappropriate responses that are similar to those observed in substance abusers.” [2] With injuries to the cortex one can make a poor judgment of future consequences which can result in minor/fatal situations such as an automotive accident or an aggressive exchange of words.

From these studies, we can take away that sexual imagery is both not as bad as we think, but probably worse than we think. A moderate amount of pornography might affect the brains of men but don’t seem to affect their mental health. [1]


  1. Hendriksen, Ellen. “Your Brain on Porn and Other Sexual Images.” Scientific American. N.p., 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.
  2. Pornography addiction: A neuroscience perspective

Donald L. Hilton, Jr and Clark Watts1

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