Watching Porn Shuts Down Parts of the Brain

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April 20 2012 6:12 PM

Watching Porn Shuts Down Parts of the Brain

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Porn makes parts of the brain shut off while you're watching it, according to a new study. Adult film actress Stevie Shae (L) and adult film actor/director Barrett Blade arrive at the 29th annual Adult Video News Awards Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

We always knew the plotlines in porn had inevitable conclusions, and now we have scientific proof.

Researchers in the Netherlands found the brain uses less energy on processing visual images while watching pornography, likely making us pay less attention to what’s happening on screen. Using PET scans they studied the brain activity of a dozen women, all heterosexual, premenopausal, and on hormonal birth control, as they viewed "female friendly" pornographic films. A control video about tropical fish was also viewed. The tests showed far less blood being sent to the primary visual cortex while watching the most explicit porn—the opposite of what usually happens while watching video.

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What does that mean? Probably that our brain recognizes the erotic trajectory of what we’re seeing, knows what comes next, and may be sending blood to other parts of the body rather than the brain’s visual processing area.

Okay, so it won't grow hair on your palms, but maybe Mom was right about it making you go blind.

Video produced by Paca Thomas.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.