Can Pornography be Addictive? An fMRI Study of Men Seeking Treatment for Problematic Pornography Use


Gola, Mateusz; Wordecha, Malgorzata; Sescousse, Guillaume; Lew-Starowicz, Michal; Kossowski, Bartosz; Wypych, Marek; Makeig, Scott; Potenza, Marc N.; and Marchewka, Artur


2017 in Neuropsychopharmacology, Vol. 42, pp. 2021–2031

  • This study suggests that, similar to what is observed in substance and gambling addictions, the neural and behavioral mechanisms associated with the anticipatory processing of cues specifically predicting erotic rewards relate importantly to clinically relevant features of PPU - these findings suggest that PPU may represent a behavioral addiction.
Pornography consumption is highly prevalent, particularly among young adult males. For some individuals, problematic pornography use (PPU) is a reason for seeking treatment. Despite the pervasiveness of pornography, PPU appears under-investigated, including with respect to the underlying neural mechanisms. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined ventral striatal responses to erotic and monetary stimuli, disentangling cue-related ‘wanting’ from reward-related ‘liking’ among 28 heterosexual... READ FULL ABSTRACT
  • "Men with PPU showed increased activation of the ventral striatum specifically for cues predicting erotic but not monetary rewards. In PPU subjects, this brain activation was accompanied by measures suggesting increased behavioral motivation to view erotic images (higher ‘wanting’). Ventral striatal reactivity for cues signaling erotic pictures (but not for erotic pictures per se) was significantly related to severity of CSB, amount of pornography use per week, and frequency of masturbation. The findings suggest similarities between PPU and addictions and an important role for learned cues in PPU. Identifying PPU-related triggers and targeting the dissociation of learned cues from problematic behaviors may be useful in the treatment of PPU. Future studies should examine specific treatments, as well as determine the prevalence and clinical correlates of PPU, and identify predisposing factors for PPU."
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