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Sex And Drugs And Brains

According to a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, viewing pornography gives sex addicts the same type of high as a drug addict gets from drugs. In fact, an analysis of brain activity of both types of addicts revealed patterns that were practically identical. Researchers at the University of Cambridge, England compared the brain activity of 19 males influenced by compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) with that of 19 healthy volunteers. Patients who perused pornography began at reportedly “earlier ages and in higher proportions relative to the healthy volunteers.”

Dr Valerie Voon, lead scientist from the University, noted that the patients participating in the trial had significant trouble regulating their sexual behavior. They also displayed behavior similar to patients addicted to drugs. Voon added that they wanted to discover if these similarities were exhibited as brain activity too.

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Viewing pornography gives sex addicts the same type of high as a drug addict gets from drugs. /Image: TravelNineMSN

Voon and colleagues showed participants a number of video shorts of either sports or sexual activities. Simultaneously they monitored brain activity through the use of FMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging. This specifically measures brain activity utilizing a BOLD (blood oxygen level dependent) signal.

The team discovered that three specific areas– the ventral striatum, dorsal anterior cingulate and amygdala –were more active in the brains of patients with “compulsive sexual behavior” as compared to the brains of the healthy control group. These same sections were also very active in drug addicts when they were shown drugs and drug-related stimuli. Those areas of the brain deal with motivation and reward, cravings for drugs and anticipation of reward and the importance of emotions and events respectively.

Participants with compulsive sexual behavior demonstrated “higher levels of desire” towards the pornographic videos. They did not, however, actually rate them higher in terms of how much they liked them. The research team also learned that “the younger the patient, the greater the level of activity in the ventral striatum in response to” sexually explicit content.

These “age-related findings” in patients with compulsive sexual behaviors indicate that the ventral striatum could be significant in the development of said behaviors much like it is in the case of drug addiction although additional testing is needed. The Cambridge team was also quick to note that their findings do not definitely prove that pornography is addictive.

Voon concluded: “While these findings are interesting, it’s important to note, however, that they could not be used to diagnose the condition. Nor does our research necessarily provide evidence that these individuals are addicted to porn — or that porn is inherently addictive. Much more research is required to understand this relationship between compulsive sexual behavior and drug addiction.”

Sex And Drugs And Brains

About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.