Internet & Video Game Addiction

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New research is clarifying "Internet addiction," which often includes (but does not isolate) pornography use. In the list below this section I've included studies on both Internet addiction and video game addiction, which are separated by this place holder: "INTERNET ADDICTION ABOVE; INTERNET GAMING BELOW."

At this time, three studies have examined the brains of porn users:

  1. Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn (2014) - A German study which found 3 significant addiction-related brain changes that correlated with the amount of porn consumed. It also found that the more porn consumed the less activity in the reward circuit, indicating desensitization, and increasing the need for greater stimulation (tolerance).
  2. Cambridge University: Brain scans find porn addiction (2014). This is the first in a series of studies. It found the same brain activity as seen in drug addicts and alcoholics. It also found that porn addicts fit the accepted addiction model of wanting "it" more, but not liking "it" more. One other major finding (not reported in the media), was that over 50% of subjects (average age: 25) had difficulty achieving erections/arousal with real partners, yet could achieve erections with porn.
  3. Enhanced Attentional Bias towards Sexually Explicit Cues in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours (2014)

Most of the Internet addiction studies below have lumped together all Internet applications, including porn use. Whatever the application, all activate dopamine through novelty-on-demand, searching & seeking, violation of expectations and ability to escalate to more stimulation. In addition, sexual stimulation elevates dopamine far higher than any other natural reward, and reproduction is our limbic brain's number one priority.

The Internet studies which have examined brain functioning, have indeed found all the same structural and physiological abnormalities found in drug addicts (desensitization, sensitization, hypofrontality, abnormal white matter, cognitive changes, etc.). It would be illogical to presume that compulsive Internet porn use by itself cannot cause similar changes, especially as Dutch researchers have already determined that erotica has the most potential of any online activity to become addictive.

With 55 brain studies, and twice as many assessment studies, the existence of Internet addiction is well established. A quote from this recent brain study

Moreover, our findings indicate that Internet addiction shares neurobiological characteristics in common with other addictive disorders. An important note is the view from the National Institute on Drug Abuse that behavioral addictions might be relatively pure models of addiction, taking into account that these conditions are not contaminated by the effects of substances [55]. Whereas the study of many other addiction disorders is invariably confounded by secondary toxicity effects of substance abuse, Internet addiction is diagnosed behaviorally and thus provides a more targeted model for studying addiction that is free from long-term drug effects.

This section may contain both lay articles for the general public, and research articles. The lay articles are marked with an "L.