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fMRI Imaging Shows Pornography Changes Viewers’ Brain Activity

What does pornography really do to the viewer? A growing body of research indicates that the effects of viewing pornography occur on many levels, including fMRI imagery that shows distinct changes at the brain level when people view pornographic images.

The fMRI research related to brain activity and pornography contradicts stereotyped beliefs that just browsing pornography is a benign activity The research also encourages new exploration of the ways treatment can be delivered to pornography addicts in similar platforms as treatment for drug or alcohol addicts, because the brain reactions to each of these addictions are similar.

One of these similarities, highlighted in a recent article, says that as a pornography addict progresses in their behaviors, they need increasing amounts of the material to get the release or “high” they are seeking – similar to the ways an alcoholic needs greater amounts of alcohol to achieve the desired release.

Using fMRI scanning, experts are looking at the ways this tolerance for pornography is demonstrated at the brain level. Findings include distinct neurochemical modifications in the front regions of the brain, which are the areas in charge of sensations like pleasure and a person’s reaction around something with addictive properties. Studies have also looked at brain effects of pornography over time, including damaged memory potential for patients and what is described as a “rewiring” activity of the brain to keep seeking pornographic images or material.

Additionally, the continued use of fMRI imaging may help encourage treatment and acceptance of pornography addiction as a true disease. With the recognition of pornography addiction as a disease, patients may also be more willing to address their addiction and seek professional help.

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