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Researchers Reveal Correlation between Porn Viewing and Less Grey Matter in the Brain

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Image credit: Camazine, via Wikimedia Commons.

According to the research done by the scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, there is remarkable association between the time spent on watching pornography and different volume of gray matter in a certain area of the brain. Their study has been published in the journal of JAMA Psychiatry.

To start with the research, scientists recruited 64 healthy men aged from twenty-one to forty-five. During the investigation, they requested the participants to complete the survey about how long they took in watching porn every week. The time spent in this regard varied considerably between participants. The surveys showed that these men spent less than 4 hours in watching porn each week.

When the pornographic images or non-sexual ones were being shown to the men, their brains were simultaneously scanned by the means of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). To the surprise of scientists, a negative association was discovered between time spent watching porn and gray matter volume of the right caudate of the striatum.

When the pornographic materials were being shown to the men, the MRI scans also demonstrated the clear decrease in function of a brain region which was used for processing motivation.

In addition, functional connectivity between the right caudate and the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was negatively associated with the amount of reported time watching porn.

As the scientists fail to prove if porn leads to such decrease in grey matter volume, they have to make more efforts in identifying the real reason through further investigation.

In the future, the study should focus on the effects of pornography longitudinally or its exposure of pornography naïve participants so as to investigate causal effects over the period of time. Actually the former should be possibly easier to gain approval from an ethics committee!

At present, the researchers are not certain about real meaning of the result of their investigation. But they are manageable to make the following hypotheses.

It could be the extra stimulation of the reward system causing the changes in neural plasticity. On the flip side, the reason might be that men with less grey matter in the striatum need more stimulation than others. These men find it more rewarding to watch porn, thus causing them to view porn for a longer time.

In order to identify the real reason, the scientists should work harder to go for a more rigorous methodology before they could reach the final conclusions in this respect.

Source: Medical Press

Journal reference: Kühn, S., & Gallinat, J. (2014). Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn. JAMA psychiatry.

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