The Cambridge University neuropsychiatrist Dr Valerie Voon has recently shown that men who describe themselves as addicted to porn (and who lost relationships because of it) develop changes in the same brain area – the reward centre – that changes in drug addicts. The study, not yet published, is featured next week in the Channel 4 TV show Porn on the Brain. Neurosceptics may argue that pictures of the brain lighting up in addicts tell us nothing new – we already know they are addicted. But they do help: knowing the reward centre is changed explains some porn paradoxes.

In the mid-1990s I, and other psychiatrists, began to notice the following. An adult male, in a happy relationship, being seen for some non-romantic issue, might describe getting curious about porn on the burgeoning internet. Most sites bored him, but he soon noticed several that fascinated him to the point he was craving them. The more he used the porn, the more he wanted to.

Yet, though he craved it, he didn't like it (porn paradox 1). The cravings were so intense, he might feel them while thinking about his computer (paradox 2). The patient would also report that, far from getting more turned on by the idea of sex with his partner, he was less attracted to her (paradox 3). Through porn he acquired new sexual tastes.

We often talk about addicts as though they simply have "quantitative problems". They "use too much", and should "cut back". But porn addictions also have a qualitative component: they change sexual taste. Here's how.



Until recently, scientists believed our brains were fixed, their circuits formed and finalised in childhood, or "hardwired". Now we know the brain is "neuroplastic", and not only can it change, but that it works by changing its structure in response to repeated mental experience.

One key driver of plastic change is the reward centre, which normally fires as we accomplish a goal. A brain chemical, dopamine, is released, giving us the thrill that goes with accomplishment. It also consolidates the connections between neurons in the brain that helped us accomplish that goal. As well, dopamine is secreted at moments of sexual excitement and novelty. Porn scenes, filled with novel sexual "partners", fire the reward centre. The images get reinforced, altering the user's sexual tastes.

Many abused substances directly trigger dopamine secretion – without us having to work to accomplish a goal. This can damage the dopamine reward system. In porn, we get "sex" without the work of courtship. Now, scans show that porn can alter the reward centre too.

Once the reward centre is altered, a person will compulsively seek out the activity or place that triggered the dopamine discharge. (Like addicts who get excited passing the alley where they first tried cocaine, the patients got excited thinking about their computers.) They crave despite negative consequences. (This is why those patients could crave porn without liking it.) Worse, over time, a damaged dopamine system makes one more "tolerant" to the activity and needing more stimulation, to get the rush and quiet the craving. "Tolerance" drives a search for ramped-up stimulation, and this can drive the change in sexual tastes towards the extreme.

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REWIRED is a documentary project about the effects of Internet pornography on the human brain. The documentary will feature leading scientists and their research as well as young adults who watched porn for many years of their life and at one point began to suffer from symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, inability to orgasm with a real partner and social anxiety.



These young adults (women and men) are convinced that porn was the cause. For REWIRED they will take us on their personal journey – from getting hooked up to their final commitment to never watch porn again.

The act of making love is sacred and should be seen in that light. Its mutually uplifting for both partners, without any one gender dominating the other as what's normally observed in our reality today with utter male dominance. The rise of the divine feminine is happening within each one of us, no matter what the gender. Its making us more compassionate, kind and caring towards each other ... extending the same love towards all beings we share this space with. The objective of sexual union isn't restricted to the act of procreation. It is deeply healing and rejuvenating in many ways to the mind, body and soul. We must choose wisely who we choose to share this energy with ... as we also tend to absorb others energies when we get physically intimate ....

“...And In the End, the Love We Take Is Equal To the Love We Make.” 
                                                                             ― The Beatles


Image Courtesy : Huffington Post


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