Is internet porn bad for mental health?

What porn does to the brain

NEW ISENBURG. Does excessive porn use leave measurable marks in the brain? Dr. Simone Kühn from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Dr. Jürgen Gallinat from the Psychiatry of the Charité in Berlin (JAMA Psychiatry 2014; 71 (7): 827) suspected, as with other addictive behaviors, above all changes in the reward system.

In a study using MRT volumetry and fMRI, they analyzed the brain structure and brain activity of 64 healthy male volunteers aged between 21 and 45 years.

The ad that the attendees responded to only mentioned an MRI scan, so they didn't know it was a pornography scan. A questionnaire was used to determine how much time they watched porno per week. In addition, there were further questionnaires to record sex addiction, internet and computer addiction as well as depression and alcohol consumption.

In total, the participants spent an average of four hours a week with pornographic representations, a third of the young men already showed a high risk of online sex addiction, but were not yet dependent. Men with high porn use also had higher scores on the sex addiction scale, drank more alcohol, and were more depressed.

In MRI volumetry, men with high porn consumption had a significantly smaller tail nucleus (caudate nucleus): the more time they spent with porn, the smaller this brain structure was. The tail core is important, for example, to discover and perceive a reward, to differentiate between rewards and to generate the motivation to obtain a reward. It is therefore also crucial for focusing attention.

The relationship - lots of porn, small tail core - was still significant when the higher risk of porn users for other addictions was taken into account. A shrunken tail core seems to be a quite specific characteristic of high porn consumption, at least in this group of test persons. (courage / fuh)

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