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New UK study finds porn affects brain like drugs, alcohol

Published: Friday, July 3 2015 5:45 p.m. MDT

A British study suggests that the brain is physically affected by porn, with porn addicts responding much as alcoholics do. At the same time, the British government has begun discussing containing porn on the internet. (Shutterstock) A British study suggests that the brain is physically affected by porn, with porn addicts responding much as alcoholics do. At the same time, the British government has begun discussing containing porn on the internet. (Shutterstock)

A new study by scientist at Cambridge University has found that portions of a porn addicts brain exposed react very much like those of an alcoholic or drug addict. The study quickly became part of an ongoing debate in Great Britain over the impact of porn and efforts to regulate it.

The research was spearheaded by Dr. Valerie Voon, an honorary consultant neuropsychiatrist. “We found greater activity in an area of the brain called the ventral striatum, which is a reward centre, involved in processing reward, motivation and pleasure," Voon told the Sunday Times (UK).

“When an alcoholic sees an ad for a drink, their brain will light up in a certain way and they will be stimulated in a certain way. We are seeing this same kind of activity in users of pornography,” Voon said.

"Ventral striatum is a subcortical brain structure and is known to be involved in emotional and behavioral functions," Nature World News reported, in summarizing the research. "Previous research has shown that the ventral striatum plays an important role in the reward system of the brain. Changes in the structure can lead to mental health problems such as obsessive compulsive disorder and depression."

The report comes at a key time in the UK, as Prime Minister David Cameron has recently launched an initiative to rein in pornography on the Internet.

"The fact is that the growth of the Internet as an unregulated space has thrown up two major challenges when it comes to protecting our children," Cameron said in a July speech. "The first challenge is criminal and that is the proliferation and accessibility of child abuse images on the Internet. The second challenge is cultural; the fact that many children are viewing online pornography and other damaging material at a very early age and that the nature of that pornography is so extreme it is distorting their view of sex and relationships."

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com

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