Effect of Pornography on Human Brain

Internet Idiots

If you want to find every idiot on the planet, they are all in one place: the internet. There has been a significant increase in the tendency towards pornography in recent past years. An increase in access to the internet is also contributing towards increased consumption of pornographic stuff in society. Our normal brain seeks reward by releasing several neurotransmitters such as dopamine in response to various pleasant stimuli. The excessive consumption of pornography causes rewiring of the neurons. As a result, the brain's capability to release neurons such as dopamine in response to normal pleasant stimuli is impaired. A huge population of the world is using pornography, but the percentage of people addicted to pornography is less. But this percentage of addiction is increasing with every passing day.

People who have a pornography addiction have some typical behaviours that any civilized society can not approve of. Pornography can lead to many physical and physiological changes in the brain, such as disturbance in the dopamine balance and reduction in the grey matter. These physical and physiological changes lead to psychological disorders such as depression. A detailed description of the physical and physiological changes occurring in the brain due to pornography is in the following section. There is also a brief discussion of the psychological disorders that can occur as a result of pornography.

The Area of the Brain most Affected by the Pornography

Some people believe that pornography is a harmless source of pleasure. Still, it has many physical, physiological and psychological effects on the brain. It causes the shrinkage of the grey matter and loss of healthy neurons. According to the research carried out to evaluate the effect of pornography on the brain, the prefrontal cortex is the area that is most affected by pornography. The prefrontal cortex has involvement in performing many complex brain functions. It has a contribution in the planning of complex activities, having self-control and making decisions. The prefrontal cortex also plays a role in setting your preferences. Pornography impairs your decision making capability by affecting this prefrontal cortex. Once you lose control of your actions, this prefrontal cortex undergoes a vicious cycle with increasing addiction to pornography and increasing loss of self-control.

Effect on the Release of Dopamine

Dopamine is a normal neurotransmitter or neurohormone that gives you a sense of pleasure and satisfaction after you do some rewarding or pleasurable activity. Examples of the natural stimuli for release of the dopamine are exercise, food, and sexual activity. When you watch or enjoy pornographic stuff, it causes your brain to release an excessive amount of dopamine. When you get addicted to pornography, your brain stops responding to normal pleasant stimuli for release of the dopamine and responds only to high stimuli such as porn or something other that can cause the release of the same level of dopamine as porn does. This loss of response to the normal stimuli occurs because when there is the flooding of the dopamine in your basal ganglia in response to the pornography, your brain does not allow you to think about any natural stimulus.


Reduction in the Gray Mattey

According to the research studies, there is a reduction of grey matter in the brain of porn addicts. The reduction is probably due to degenerative changes of the neurons. As described above, the most affected area of the brain by pornography is the Prefrontal cortex. The reduction of grey matter is also most prominent in the prefrontal cortex. The grey matter is necessary for making decisions, formulating complex plans and having self-control. The reduction of the grey matter and dynamically disturbed dopamine levels are the major contributors to different effects of the brain as a result of pornography. These two situations in combination lead to different mental effects. The description of those mental effects is in the following section.

Loss of Self-control

According to the researched literature, the loss of the person's self-control occurs due to the inactivation of the prefrontal cortex during the time of watching pornography. Initially, when you watch porn, your limbic system works satisfactorily, and your prefrontal cortex stays stimulated. Once you have gone through this prompt phase of stimulation, the higher centres of your prefrontal cortex related to self-control and complex thinking start to give you a feeling of regret. After someone is done with this activity, he will go through a physiological and psychological stress phase due to the sudden fall of dopamine level from very high to very low. This stress can lead to the situations such as depression, the feeling of low self-esteem, and grief. These feelings will stimulate the brain of the participant for an escape from these feelings. As a result of that stimulation, the person will again go for the same activity to regain a higher level of dopamine and escape from stress. When the same activity is done again, it will be followed by more stress. The ultimate result would be a vicious cycle with continuous impairment of self-control.

The Reason for loss of self-control

Self-control is the job of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. When there is repeated activation of these parts by pornography, their activity in normal circumstances starts to reduce. The continuous use of pornographic stuff will ultimately lead to activation of these parts only when there is a dopamine surge from pornography. The result would be a loss of self-control.

Loss of Brain Response to Normal Pleasant Stimuli

Pornography affects the release of dopamine. When you watch pornography, there is a surge of dopamine. The dopamine suddenly goes up. There is also an increase in the cerebral blood flow of different parts of the brain. The brain gets accustomed to this high level of dopamine and cerebral blood flow. The natural stimuli of pleasure such as food and sexual activity cannot meet this new need for dopamine and blood by their stimulation. Additionally, The attention of the participant towards the natural stimuli also reduces. The ultimate result is impairment of brain stimulation in response to normal stimuli of pleasure.

Impairment of the ability of the brain to make decisions

As described above, the addiction to porn leads to a reduction in the brain's grey matter, especially the prefrontal cortex. The damage of the prefrontal cortex leads to poor integration and judgement of sensory stimuli. The prefrontal cortex also functions to integrate the information received from different sensory stimuli, make a judgment of all the received information, and finally make a firm decision. This poor integration ultimately leads to poor decision making capability of the brain.

Impaired Memory

There have been doubts about the association of impaired memory among the users of pornography and other such stuff. Some researches have shown that there is some impairment of memory among porn addicts. The possible cause of this verbal impairment is dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex, which leads to poor cognition and integration of the sensory stimuli. Though, there is no solid scientific evidence showing the relation of pornography with memory loss.

Brain Prioritizes Pornography Over Natural Stimuli

Due to shrinkage of the grey matter and disturbance in dopamine levels, your brain prioritises pornography over natural stimuli such as food and natural sexual activity. If your prefrontal is working perfectly, it makes judgement and integration of the sensory information and guides you to choose the best activities for you. But once you have caused a disturbance in the functioning of this part of the brain, you cannot make clear judgements. As a result, your brain starts to crave dopamine surges more frequently, and you start to prioritize pornography over natural pleasures.

Psychological Manifestations of Pornography’s Brain Effects

We have described the physiological and physical changes that occur in the brain as a result of pornography. But these physiological and physical changes manifest as psychological symptoms or disorders. It was thought that, whether mental or physical diseases, they are treated by drugs and are necessarily caused by structural dysfunction. But in recent years, the attention towards the psychological effects of pornography has also increased. The treatment of any disease, especially mental diseases, requires both corrections at the physiological and psychological levels. Therefore, psychological disorders can be defined as the problem of thought that occurs due to the neurohormones' underlying physiological change.  A description of different psychological problems associated with porn addiction is in the following section.


If you have been using pornographic stuff for a long time, the level of dopamine starts to fall when you are done with the impulsive activity of pornography. The level of dopamine does not rise until you do not involve in pornography for the next time. In the meantime, your dopamine levels stay below the new threshold of the brain. The result is low feelings and depression. There is more prevalence of depression in porn addicts who use internet sources to explore pornography.


Right after the activity of pornography, you have a sense of shame and disgrace. You start to feel more vulnerable. As a result, you start to hide from the world and start to live in isolation.


In-state of anxiety, your brain is more active but does not have a clear thought. In the above discussion, it was stated that there is a disturbance in the functioning of the prefrontal cortex. As a result, you can not make clear judgements and integration. The result is a collection of junk thoughts in your brain that manifests itself in the form of anxiety. Anxiety can cause extensive cognitive impairment if pornography addicts do not control it.

Split Personality Disorder

Pornography can lead you to split personality disorder. You cannot choose between two situations in this order and cannot move towards any one of them. Pornography causes the impairment of the ability of integration and judgement of different sensory information. So, it can lead to this serious condition.

Sexual Perversions

Sexual perversion means the use of unnatural ways for sexual gratification. There can be the inborn tendency of sexual perversion in an individual, but pornography can work as a guide to that way. The porn industry uses different scenarios and scripts to make videos or sex stories. Most people who watch porn desire to give pain to their partner; this is termed sadism. There can be other perversions, but sadism is the most common in porn addicts. The script of pornography stays in your subconscious even after you have watched it. If you find any of those scenarios applicable in real life, you can go to that perversion. It is also argued that pornography can lead to ethical breaches such as incest relationships. It is worthy to note that these psychological problems can also cause porn addiction and be the result of porn addiction.

A review of the effects of pornography on the human is in the following section. There has been a steep increase in the number of users of pornography in recent years. The internet world is significantly contributing to this increase in porn addiction. Pornography is associated with many adverse effects on the brain. The main effect of porn on the brain is a disturbance in the level of dopamine. In normal circumstances, our brain releases dopamine in response to pleasant natural stimuli such as food or sexual activity. Excessive pornography causes a change in the intensity of the stimulus required for causing the release of dopamine from the neurons. There is also shrinkage of the grey matter of the brain as a result of porn addiction. The area of the brain that is most affected by pornography is the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain has contributed to many important activities such as decision making. The disturbance in dopamine level and reduction of the grey matter contribute to many brain problems such as loss of self-control. Pornography can also lead to many psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, and sexual perversions.

Social Media

Social media sites like Twitter and Reddit allow porn on their sites. They allow it because they know that, if they ban porn, there will be a mass exodus. They more people they have on the site, the more people who will see ads. Facebook and Instagram allow softcore porn. 

  • 40 million American people regularly visit porn sites.

  • 35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography.

  • 34% of internet users have experienced unwanted exposure to pornographic content through ads, pop up ads, misdirected links or emails.


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