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Tuesday 29 July 2014

Why watching too much porn makes men's brains smaller - research

Published 30/05/2014|15:01

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Men who watch pornography regularly could be reducing the size of their brain, a study has found.

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Researchers discovered less grey matter in the brains of men who regularly view pornography compared with those who don’t.

Experts say it’s the first evidence for a link between watching sexually explicit material and reductions in brain size – but the new study doesn’t prove that pornography causes changes to the brain.

They say an alternative explanation could be that men with a certain type of brain with overly-sensitive reward stimuli – known as the ‘striatum’ - could be more likely to use pornography.

Dr Simone Kühn from the Max Planck Institution in Berlin led the study. “Unfortunately we cannot answer this question based on the results of the present,” she said.

“It’s not clear, for example, whether watching porn leads to brain changes or whether people born with certain brain types watch more porn”.

Dr Kühn and colleagues from Berlin’s Charite University used 64 healthy men between the ages of 21 and 45 years and studied their porn-watching habits.

They matched their survey results with scans of the men’s brains and observed both the volume of the brain and the way they reacted to sexually explicit images.

The findings, published in the JAMA Psychiatry Journal, have been met with scepticism from some experts who say that watching pornography in moderation was probably not harmful.

Dr Gregory Tau from Columbia University said that porn-watching was “probably not terrible in moderation”.

“It is possible that there are individuals with a certain kind of brain that are more susceptible to these kinds of behaviours,” he said.

“Or, it’s possible it’s the excessive use (of porn) that’s perpetuating itself to causing brain changes. Or, it could be both.”

Dr Kühn has called for future studies to conduct deeper investigations into the effects of pornography on the brain over time.

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