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Wilson's theory resonated with me, as did the trove of candid narratives of porn addiction and recovery hosted on Your Brain On that color the portrait of a user I can understand -- who can't get it up or can never cum, who watches gay porn or fetishes like "scat" despite having no real-world interest in those scenarios, and who spends hours a day masturbating with a tight-squeeze "death grip" that just can't be matched by vaginal sex.

While I was tempted to run with these corroborating accounts, I recognized that anecdotes were just that, and I wanted to see more rigorous investigations before drawing any conclusions. They point out that there has never been a study that specifically examines the brain changes of Internet porn users with the scientific robustness of a randomized control trial, so the brain changes that Wilson and Robinson speculate are occurring in heavy porn-users have not actually been observed.

This cadre of anonymous porn veterans pointed me towards a cache of research, which launched me on a rather academic investigation with some of the world's leading experts on "porn addiction," to find out what's been going on inside my head and what it says about who I am. There's not a consensus on the science of how porn affects the brain, but there is a lot of information on the topic. Marnia Robinson and Gary Wilson, a science writer and science teacher who are married and the founders of Your Brain On Porn, are leading voices in the space.

They admit that they don't have the academic credentials, but think they've compiled some reliable information from years of following the research.

These persistent spikes of dopamine triggered the release of another chemical -- ΔFos B -- that's necessary for binging on rewards like sex and food.

With a reward like food I would eventually get full and my brain would cease its excitement for new bites.

Once again, the seeming disconnect between "experts" and the qualitative experience of my readers (and me) was leading me back to Wilson and Robinson.If the duo comes off as overzealous in their defense of the legitimacy of porn addiction, it may be because their counterparts are so dogmatically dismissive. Marty Klein that these "addictions" are likely secondary to other root causes like bipolar disorder, OCD, borderline personality disorder, or just masturbating too much, and that focusing on porn masks the problem -- and the individual's responsibility to deal with his own immature decision-making. Klein categorically refutes the addiction model, stressing that most people who watch porn have no problem with it.He declares, "[U]sing porn does NOT cause brain damage, erectile dysfunction, or loss of sexual interest in one's mate." Klein elaborated on his perspective on a January episode of When a lot of people who label themselves as sex addicts or porn addicts say, "I'm out of control," what they're really mean is "You know, it would be really uncomfortable to make different decisions about sex than the ones that I'm making.These changes include desensitization (reduced responsiveness to pleasure), sensitization (hyper-reactivity to addiction-related cues), abnormal white matter (a weakening of the communication between reward circuits and the frontal cortex) and hypofrontality (a decrease in frontal-lobe gray matter that is involved in impulse control and decision-making).Still, the lack of scientifically rigorous research that isolates Internet porn users from other "Internet addicts" has forced Wilson and Robinson to cite testimonials -- and is why the couple's detractors cry "anecdotal pseudoscience! " Sometimes, Wilson and Robinson do seem to get carried away, like by claiming that ex-Internet porn addicts are a valid, albeit "informal," control group to study this phenomenon (but, of course, they're not randomly selected, so there may be a common trait among these folks that made them use and stop using that could affect their results).

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