Harvard Scientist Explains what Porn does to your Brain

It’s kind of scary.

Jon Miltimore | July 26, 2016 | 41,223

It’s kind of scary.
Harvard Scientist Explains what Porn does to your Brain

As we’ve previously noted, it’s difficult to get consistent answers on the alleged dangers of pornography. Scientific research on the subject varies widely.

It’s safe to say that Kevin Majeres, a psychiatrist specializing in cognitive-behavioral therapy and a faculty member of Harvard Medical School, is among those who view pornography as harmful.

Writing on the blog Purity is Possible, Majeres explains how the brain works and what happens to the brain during repeated exposure to pornography. He begins with mating patterns discovered in rats:

Scientists have discovered that if you place a male rat in a cage with a receptive female, they will mate; but once done, the male rat will not mate more times, even if the female is still receptive. He loses all sexual interest. But if, right after he finishes with the first female, you put in a second receptive female, he will immediately mate again; and again a third, and so on, until he nearly dies. This effect has been found in every animal studied. This is called the Coolidge effect.

Okay. The stuff about the rats having sex is disgusting and a little creepy. But what does that have to do with us?

Pornography’s power comes from the way it tricks the man’s lower brain; one of the drawbacks of this region is that it can’t tell the difference between an image and reality. Pornography offers a man an unlimited number of seemingly willing females; every time he sees the new partner, with each click, it gears up his sex drive again.

The brain hack thing is definitely creepy, still not exactly terrifying though. But take a look at Majeres has to say about dopamine. 

Dopamine is the drug of desire – when you see something desirable, your brain pours out dopamine, saying “Go for it! Do whatever it takes!” Dopamine fixes your attention on that desirable object, giving you your power of concentration...

So when someone clicks and sees a new pornographic image, his lower brain thinks this is the real thing, this is the lady he must win over with all his might, and so he gets an enormous dopamine flood in his upper brain, causing a wild amount of electrical energy.

This first exposure to a new female who is a potential mate wasn’t something that happened a lot to our ancestors; maybe only once in their lives; so the brain thinks this is a big deal. It doesn’t know that now the game has completely changed: it doesn’t understand that these are virtual females only; so with each new one it causes another flood of dopamine, time after time, click after click, as long as he continues. It’s a dopamine binge.

I’m not a scientist. But this is beginning to sound, er, not healthy. Majeres continues:

This is why pornography causes a vicious circle. When someone views pornography, he gets overstimulated by dopamine; so his brain destroys some dopamine receptors. This makes him feel depleted, so he goes back to pornography, but, having fewer dopamine receptors, this time it requires more to get the same dopamine thrill; but this causes his brain to destroy more receptors; so he feels an even greater need for pornography to stimulate him.

So as guys keep gaming the dopamine system, they start to find that they have to use pornography for longer and longer periods to have the same effect, and they have to visit more and more sites. 

But even more porn sites eventually don't cut it. What then? 

You have to stimulate another emotion: fear or disgust or shock or surprise. For porn use, you need to start moving to kinkier things, things that make you afraid or make you feel a bit sick; and so you start experimenting with various perversions.

I recommend Majeres’ article in full. The science may yet be unclear on the physical side effects of porn, but he makes a strong case, at the very least, that pornography is 1) highly addictive 2) harmful to relationships.

Regardless of how one feels on the morality of pornography, those reasons alone—if one values self-control and healthy relationships—should cause alarm.

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Jon Miltimore is the Senior Editor of Intellectual TakeoutFollow him on Facebook.

[Image Credit: Pixabay]

 



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