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Study: Watching Porn Shuts Down Areas Of The Brain

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Preston Waters

Children have long been warned that self-stimulation could make them go blind. Now it appears there may be some truth in the old wives’ tale. New research shows that watching pornographic films can actually shut down the part of the brain that processes visual stimuli. In women, at least.

A team from the University of Groningen Medical Centre in the Netherlands scanned the primary visual cortexes of 12 healthy heterosexual premenopausal women while showing them porn.

The women were all on hormonal birth control which smoothed out any changes in sexual desire or arousal related to their menstrual cycles.

While looking at the women’s brains using positron emission tomography (better known as PET scans), the researchers showed them three videos.

One of the videos was a documentary about marine life in the Caribbean, while the other two were ‘women-friendly’ pornographic films.

One showed only foreplay and manual stimulation, while the other showed explicit scenesof oral sex and vaginal intercourse.

Results of the scans showed that the most explicit erotic film – the one which featured oral sex and intercourse – resulted in far less blood being sent to the primary visual cortex.

It was the same effect as is seen when people are asked to conduct a non-visual task, like remembering words, while also watching some sort of visual stimuli.

In usual circumstances, when watching films or doing any other visual task extra blood flows to to the visual cortex.

Uroneurologist Gert Holstege, one of the Groningen team, told LiveScience the results suggested the brain was focusing more on sexual arousal than visual processing during the film.

‘You have to realize that the brain wants to spare as much energy as possible, so if some part of the brain is not necessary at a high level of functioning, it immediately goes down,’ Dr Holstege told LiveScience.

He links the results to previous research which shows the brain can be anxious or aroused, but not both.

During orgasm activity in brain regions associated with anxiety falls sharply, which Dr Holstege said, may explain why women with low libido often suffer from anxiety.

One of those regions associated with anxiety is the visual cortex – if you are looking around, scanning for danger, it may be more difficult to focus on arousal.

Dr Holstege suggested that the findings may have a practical use in treating sexual disfunction.

‘If you want to have sex, as a man, you need to produce a safe situation for the woman,’ he said. ‘That is what you want, that is the most important thing.’

Elite.

Preston Waters

Preston Waters

Editor

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