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Pornography consumption is highly prevalent, particularly among young adult males. For some individuals, problematic pornography use (PPU) is a reason for seeking treatment. Despite the pervasiveness of pornography, PPU appears under-investigated, including with respect to the underlying neural mechanisms. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined ventral striatal responses to erotic and monetary stimuli, disentangling cue-related ‘wanting’ from reward-related ‘liking’ among 28 heterosexual males seeking treatment for PPU and 24 heterosexual males without PPU. Subjects engaged in an incentive delay task in the scanner, in which they received erotic or monetary rewards preceded by predictive cues. BOLD responses to erotic and monetary cues were analyzed and examined with respect to self-reported data on sexual activity collected over the 2 preceding months. Men with and without PPU differed in their striatal responses to cues predicting erotic pictures, but not in their responses to erotic pictures. PPU subjects when compared to control subjects showed increased activation of ventral striatum specifically for cues predicting erotic pictures but not for cues predicting monetary gains. Relative sensitivity to cues predicting erotic pictures versus monetary gains was significantly related to the increased behavioral motivation to view erotic images (suggestive of higher ‘wanting’), severity of PPU, amount of pornography use per week and number of weekly masturbations. Our findings suggest that, similar to what is observed in substance and gambling addictions, the neural and behavioral mechanisms associated with the anticipatory processing of cues specifically predicting erotic rewards relate importantly to clinically relevant features of PPU. These findings suggest that PPU may represent a behavioral addiction and that interventions helpful in targeting behavioral and substance addictions warrant consideration for adaptation and use in helping men with PPU.
Data collection and experimental procedure. (a) After psychiatric assessment, subjects who met study criteria (see Patients and Methods section) completed questionnaires assessing self-reported sexual behavior and substance use in the weeks preceding fMRI. (b) Incentive delay task used in the fMRI session. Subjects first saw a cue informing them about the type (pictogram with a $ or a woman), magnitude (size of pictogram), and probability (pie chart) of an upcoming reward. Examples of all possible cases of cues are presented in Figure 1c. An empty circle was used to signal control trials with a 100% likelihood of getting no reward (Figure 1b, top). Next, the cue was replaced by a question mark, symbolizing a delay period during which a pseudorandom draw was performed according to the previously displayed probability. Following this anticipation phase, participants had to perform a target discrimination task within 1 s. The target was either a triangle (left button press required) or a square (right button press required). If subjects answered correctly within o1 s, they were then allowed to view the outcome of the pseudorandom draw. RTs were later used as an index of motivation. In rewarded monetary trials (following the cue with pictogram of a $; Figure 2b, middle), subjects saw a monetary amount displayed on a safe. In rewarded erotic trials (following cue with the pictogram of woman; Figure 2b, bottom), subjects saw an erotic picture. After each reward outcome, subjects had to provide a hedonic rating on a continuous scale (1-do not like it to 9-like it very much). In non-rewarded and control trials, subjects saw a scrambled picture (top). (c) Types of cues. Both monetary and erotic cues provided information about the magnitude and probability of reward. For erotic rewards, a small magnitude was always predictive of pictures of women in lingerie or swimming suits, and a large magnitude was always predictive of explicit pictures of woman in postures inviting sexual activity. For monetary cues, a small magnitude was predictive of gains ranging from 1 to 3 PLN (approximately 0.25-0.75 EUR), while a large magnitude was predictive of gains ranging from 6 to 8 PLN (1.5-2 EUR). The probability of obtaining a reward after a correct and fast (o1 s) response was indicated by a background pie chart representing probabilities of 25, 50, or 75%. All monetary gains were paid to the participants at the end of the experiment. Credits for the sample photo: Lies Thru a Lens, CC BY 2.0. For license terms, see: CC BY 2.0.
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Can Pornography be Addictive? An fMRI Study of Men Seeking
Treatment for Problematic Pornography Use
Mateusz Gola*
,1,2
,Małgorzata Wordecha
2
, Guillaume Sescousse
3
, MichałLew-Starowicz
4
, Bartosz Kossowski
5
,
Marek Wypych
5
, Scott Makeig
1
, Marc N Potenza
6,7,8
and Artur Marchewka
5
1
Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience, Institute for Neural Computations, University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA;
2
Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory, Institute of Psychology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland;
3
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and
Behaviour, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands;
4
III Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology, Warsaw, Poland;
5
Laboratory of Brain Imaging, Neurobiology Center, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology of Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland;
6
Department of Psychiatry, Child Study Center and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven,
CT, USA;
7
Department of Neurobiology, Child Study Center and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Yale School of Medicine,
New Haven, CT, USA;
8
Connecticut Mental Health Center, New Haven, CT, USA
Pornography consumption is highly prevalent, particularly among young adult males. For some individuals, problematic pornography use
(PPU) is a reason for seeking treatment. Despite the pervasiveness of pornography, PPU appears under-investigated, including with respect
to the underlying neural mechanisms. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined ventral striatal responses to erotic
and monetary stimuli, disentangling cue-related wantingfrom reward-related likingamong 28 heterosexual males seeking treatment for
PPU and 24 heterosexual males without PPU. Subjects engaged in an incentive delay task in the scanner, in which they received erotic or
monetary rewards preceded by predictive cues. Blood-oxygen-level-dependent responses to erotic and monetary cues were analyzed and
examined with respect to self-reported data on sexual activity collected over the 2 preceding months. Men with and without PPU differed
in their striatal responses to cues predicting erotic pictures but not in their responses to erotic pictures. PPU subjects when compared with
control subjects showed increased activation of ventral striatum specifically for cues predicting erotic pictures but not for cues predicting
monetary gains. Relative sensitivity to cues predicting erotic pictures vs monetary gains was significantly related to the increased behavioral
motivation to view erotic images (suggestive of higher wanting), severity of PPU, amount of pornography use per week, and number of
weekly masturbations. Our findings suggest that, similar to what is observed in substance and gambling addictions, the neural and behavioral
mechanisms associated with the anticipatory processing of cues specifically predicting erotic rewards relate importantly to clinically relevant
features of PPU. These findings suggest that PPU may represent a behavioral addiction and that interventions helpful in targeting behavioral
and substance addictions warrant consideration for adaptation and use in helping men with PPU.
Neuropsychopharmacology (2017) 42, 20212031; doi:10.1038/npp.2017.78; published online 17 May 2017
INTRODUCTION
Pornography consumption has become highly prevalent, in
part given Internet availability (Luscombe, 2016). Approxi-
mately 70% of males and 20% of females aged 1830 years
use pornography weekly (Hald, 2006). Among teenagers
aged o18 years, 90% of boys and 60% of girls have used
Internet pornography (Sabina et al, 2008), with 12% of
children having onset of regular consumption below age 12
years (Opinium Research, 2014). For most people, porno-
graphy viewing is a form of entertainment, but for some
individuals problematic pornography use (PPU)
accompanied by excessive masturbation promotes seeking
of treatment (Gola et al, 2016a). Such observations raise
multiple scientifically and clinically important questions,
including with respect to brain mechanisms related to PPU
and their relationships to clinically relevant measures. Given
the negative health measures associated with compulsive
sexual behavior (CSB) broadly (eg, childhood sexual trauma
and posttraumatic stress disorder; Smith et al, 2014), more
research is needed in order to better understand specific
forms of CSB such as PPU and develop improved
intervention strategies (Kafka, 2014; Kor et al, 2013; Kraus
et al, 2016).
The existence and clinical utility of non-substance or
behavioral addictions has been debated, with gambling
disorder currently being the sole non-substance disorder
classified together with substance-use disorders in DSM-5
(American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Holden, 2001).
Although a field trial for hypersexual disorder (Kafka, 2010)
was conducted, neither this condition or related behaviors
*Correspondence: Dr M Gola, Swartz Center for Computational
Neuroscience, Institute for Neural Computations, University of
California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, San Diego, CA 92093-
0559, USA, Tel: 858 500 2554/858 822 7543, E-mail: mgola@ucsd.edu
Received 25 January 2017; revised 27 March 2017; accepted 7 April
2017; accepted article preview online 14 April 2017
Neuropsychopharmacology (2017) 42, 2021 2031
©
2017 American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. All rights reserved 0893-133X/17
www.neuropsychopharmacology.org
such as PPU were included in DSM-5, in part given the
relative paucity of data on these behaviors or conditions
(Kafka, 2014; Krueger, 2016; Reid et al, 2012). Whether
excessive and problematic patterns of sexual behavior are
best conceptualized within obsessive-compulsive disorder
(OCD), impulse-control disorder (ICD), behavioral addic-
tion or other frameworks has been debated (Kafka, 2014; Kor
et al, 2013; Kraus et al, 2016). A recent case series reported
that low dose (20 mg/day) of paroxetine treatment (found to
be successful in treating OCD; Stein et al, 2007) led to
reductions in anxiety and severity of PPU (Gola and Potenza,
2016). Additionally, naltrexone treatment (found to be
successful in alcohol use (Maisel et al, 2013) and gambling
disorders (Yip and Potenza, 2014) may be helpful for
individuals with PPU (Bostwick and Bucci, 2008; Kraus et al,
2015). As naltrexone has been proposed to reduce craving
through modulating activity in mesolimbic structures
(Thompson et al, 2000), the ventral striatum may contribute
importantly to CSBs, including PPU. Recent MRI studies of
men support this hypothesis. Among non-problematic
pornography users, an inverse relationship between right
caudate volume and frequency of pornography consumption
was observed (Kühn and Gallinat, 2014). Increased blood-
oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) responses in the ventral
striatum were observed in response to preferred sexual
pictures when compared with non-preferred ones, and this
activity positively correlated with scores on the Internet
Addiction Test Modified for Cybersex (Brand et al, 2016).
Men with CSB (meeting criteria for hypersexual disorder;
Kafka, 2010) as compared with those without (comparison
subjects (CSubs)) demonstrated increased striatal reactivity
for sexually explicit videos (Voon et al, 2014) and decreased
functional connectivity between the ventral striatum and
prefrontal cortex (Klucken et al, 2016). These findings
suggest similarities between CSB and addictions.
A prominent model of addiction, the incentive salience
theory (IST; (Berridge, 2012; Robinson and Berridge, 1993;
Robinson et al, 2015) posits that wanting becomes dis-
sociated from liking. The latter is hypothesized to be linked
to the experienced value of the reward and the former to its
anticipated value (Robinson et al, 2015). Wantingis
typically evoked by predictive cues associated with reward
through Pavlovian learning (Berridge, 2012). Learned cues
(conditional stimuli) related to addiction acquire incentive
salience, reflected in increased BOLD response in the ventral
striatum and increased motivated behavior (ie, shorter
reaction times (RTs; Berridge, 2012). According to the IST,
and consistent with observations in substance addictions and
gambling disorder (Robinson et al, 2015; Sescousse et al,
2013), increased anticipatory wantingis dissociated from
experienced likingin addiction. If PPU share mechanisms
with addictions, we anticipate seeing increased BOLD
response in the ventral striatum specifically for cues signaling
erotic pictures followed by higher motivation to obtain them
(measured as shorter RTs) in individuals with PPU
compared with CSubs. Increased wantingshould be
unrelated to measures of likingin PPU subjects but not
in CSubs.
The current study sought to extend prior studies by
examining the neural correlates of sexual and non-sexual
incentives in men seeking treatment for PPU and men
without PPU. We further sought to relate the brain
activations to clinically relevant features of PPU. No prior
neuroimaging studies have examined individuals seeking
treatment for PPU. Additionally, as it is important to
investigate possible common neural mechanisms of addic-
tions, we investigated cue-induced wantingof addiction-
relatedreward dissociated from likingaspects. Most studies
using visual sexual stimuli do not allow for determination of
whether stimuli may represent cues or rewards (Gola, 2016;
Gola et al, 2016c) and very rarely permit comparisons to
other incentives, making it difficult to interpret results with
respect to the IST (Berridge, 2012; Gola et al, 2015, 2016c;
Robinson and Berridge, 1993; Robinson et al, 2015).
To investigate, we used an incentive delay task (Figure 1)
previously used in studies of gambling disorder (Sescousse
et al, 2013). This task has three important properties: it: (1)
disentangles cue- and reward-related phases related to
anticipation and outcome, respectively; (2) allows measure-
ment of neural and behavioral indicators of wanting(in a
cue phase) and liking(in a reward phase); and (3) provides
a possibility to compare addiction-relatedstimuli (in this
case, erotic pictures) with another potent reward (monetary
gains). As individuals with gambling disorder expressed
higher ventral striatal responses to monetary as compared
with erotic cues in the cue phase (Sescousse et al, 2013), we
hypothesized that men with PPU as compared with those
without would demonstrate increased ventral striatal re-
sponses for erotic but not for monetary cues. We further
hypothesized that the degree of ventral striatal activation to
erotic cues in men with PPU would correlate positively with
severity of PPU, amount of pornography consumed, and
frequency of masturbation. Finally, according to the IST, we
hypothesized that wantingin the erotic cue phase would be
associated with likingin the reward phase in the CSub
group but not in the PPU group, representing a dissociation
between wantingand likingin PPU.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Participants
Fifty-seven heterosexual males (age range 1848 years)
participated in the fMRI study. These included 31 men
seeking treatment for PPU (meeting criteria of hypersexual
disorder; Kafka, 2010) and without other psychiatric diagnoses
and 26 CSubs with comparable ages and incomes, also without
psychopathology. All subjects were medication-free. Three
PPU subjects and two CSubs were excluded from analysis due
to extensive head movement (47 mm). Characteristics of the
remaining 28 PPU subjects and 24 CSubs are presented in
Table 1. All participants were financially compensated based
on their winnings accumulated during the experimental
procedure (M=184.84 PLN; SD =21.66; approximately 46
EUR). Details of recruitment and anonymity procedures are
presented in Supplementary Materials. All research proce-
dures were approved by the Ethical Committee of Institute of
Psychology, Polish Academy of Science. All subjects provided
written informed consent.
Recruitment
Subjects were recruited among men seeking treatment for
PPU in two clinics in Warsaw. After the initial interview,
Can pornography be addictive?
M Gola et al
2022
Neuropsychopharmacology
patients were screened for sexual orientation (inclusion
criteria: exclusively or predominantly heterosexual on the
Kinsey Scale (Kinsey et al, 1948; Wierzba et al, 2015) and no
history of alcohol abuse (scores o7 on the Alcohol Use
Disorder Identification Test (Saunders et al, 1993) or
gambling problems (scores o3 on the South Oaks Gambling
Screen (Lesieur and Blume, 1987). Patients meeting these
criteria and having no contraindication for MRI were
screened with the SCID-I (First and Gibbon, 2004) for
OCD, ICDs, mood disorders, mania, anxiety disorders,
psychotic disorders, history of substance abuse/dependence,
and hypersexual disorder according to criteria proposed by
Kafka (2010). Only men meeting criteria for hypersexual
disorder and none of the other above-mentioned disorders
were invited to participate in a 2-month self-assessment
study involving completing web-based questionnaires
(approximately 8 weeks, 4 weeks, and 1 h before the fMRI
session; Figure 1) and fMRI.
CSubs were recruited through web-based announcements
advertising the study as a survey on Internet pornography
use (to avoid primary monetary motivations). Among 213
men, we selected 26 heterosexual individuals matched by age
(the same year of birth), income (±15%) and handedness to
each PPU subject. All CSubs had used pornography at least
once in the preceding year but had never experienced it as a
problematic behavior. All CSubs followed the same proce-
dures as PPU subjects.
Anonymity
To ensure the anonymity of PPU individuals, we applied a
double-blind approach in that the research team in the
laboratory had no access to the data gathered by the
recruitment and assessment team and thus did not know
subjectsgroup (PPU, CSub) identities. Each subject received
an alphanumeric code to maintain anonymity at the data
analysis level. We informed subjects about these procedures.
Questionnaire Assessments
In self-assessments preceding fMRI (Figure 1a), subjects
were asked to report their sexual activity during the week
(see Table 1). During this phase, we also collected
questionnaire measurements for independent verification of
screening accuracy and assessment of additional data (as
presented in Table 1 and described in detail in the
Supplementary Materials).
Incentive Delay Task
We used the same procedure described in detail in previous
studies (Sescousse et al, 2010, 2013), schematized in
Figure 1b, and described in Supplementary Materials, with
modifications related to the amount of monetary gains. In
the original studies, subjects were informed that they would
receive a sum of rewards from one randomly chosen
experimental block (out of four) (Sescousse et al, 2013). In
our study, subjects were told they would receive the exact
sum of all monetary gains (M=184.84 PLN, which was
approximately 5.5% of monthly salary after taxes). The task
permits modeling of events theoretically related to wanting
(cues) and liking(rewards).
Figure 1 Data collection and experimental procedure. (a) After psychiatric
assessment, subjects who met study criteria (see Patients and Methods section)
completed questionnaires assessing self-reported sexual behavior and
substance use in the weeks preceding fMRI. (b) Incentive delay task used in
the fMRI session. Subjects first saw a cue informing them about the type
(pictogram with a $ or a woman), magnitude (size of pictogram), and
probability (pie chart) of an upcoming reward. Examples of all possible cases of
cues are presented in Figure 1c. An empty circle was used to signal control
trials with a 100% likelihood of getting no reward (Figure 1b, top). Next, the
cue was replaced by a question mark, symbolizing a delay period during which
a pseudorandom draw was performed according to the previously displayed
probability. Following this anticipation phase, participants had to perform a
target discrimination task within 1 s. The target was either a triangle (left button
press required) or a square (right button press required). If subjects answered
correctly within o1 s, they were then allowed to view the outcome of the
pseudorandom draw. RTs were later used as an index of motivation. In
rewarded monetary trials (following the cue with pictogram of a $; Figure 2b,
middle), subjects saw a monetary amount displayed on a safe. In rewarded
erotic trials (following cue with the pictogram of woman; Figure 2b, bottom),
subjects saw an erotic picture. After each reward outcome, subjects had to
provide a hedonic rating on a continuous scale (1donotlikeitto9like it
very much). In non-rewarded and control trials, subjects saw a scrambled
picture (top). (c) Types of cues. Both monetary and erotic cues provided
information about the magnitude and probability of reward. For erotic rewards,
a small magnitude was always predictive of pictures of women in lingerie or
swimming suits, and a large magnitude was always predictive of explicit pictures
of woman in postures inviting sexual activity. For monetary cues, a small
magnitude was predictive of gains ranging from 1 to 3 PLN (approximately
0.250.75 EUR), while a large magnitude was predictive of gains ranging from 6
to 8 PLN (1.52 EUR). The probability of obtaining a reward after a correct
and fast (o1 s) response was indicated by a background pie chart representing
probabilities of 25, 50, or 75%. All monetary gains were paid to the participants
at the end of the experiment. Credits for the sample photo: Lies Thru a Lens,
CC BY 2.0. For license terms, see: CC BY 2.0.
Can pornography be addictive?
M Gola et al
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Neuropsychopharmacology
MRI Data Acquisition
MRI data acquisition was conducted at the Laboratory of
Brain Imaging, Neurobiology Center, Nencki Institute of
Experimental Biology on a 3-Tesla MR scanner (Siemens
Magnetom Trio TIM, Erlangen, Germany) equipped with a
12-channel phased-array head coil. Functional data were
acquired using a T2*-weighted gradient echo-planar-imaging
sequence with the following parameters: repetition
time =2500 ms, echo time =28 ms, flip angle =90°, in-plane
resolution =64 × 64 mm, field of view =224 mm, and 35 axial
slices with 3.5 mm slice thickness with no gap between slices.
Each of the four functional runs consisted of 286 volumes.
Field mapping was carried out based on prior methodology
(Jezzard and Balaban, 1995) using double-echo FLASH (echo
time 1 =4.92 ms, echo time 2 =7.38 ms time repetition =
600 ms) with the same spatial properties as the functional
scans. Detailed anatomical data were acquired with a
T1-weighted sequence (repetition time =2530 ms, echo
time =3.32 ms). Head movements were minimized with
cushions placed around the participantsheads. Subjects were
asked to refrain from any psychoactive substance use and
sexual activity during the 24h preceding fMRI.
fMRI Analysis
In line with previous studies (Sescousse et al, 2010, 2013), in
the first-level analysis we modeled brain responses during
the cue-anticipatory phase and the reward-outcome phase.
We modeled separately 13 cue conditions: low/high erotic
cue and low/high monetary × 3 probability categories25,
50, and 75% (giving 6 erotic-cue categories and 6 monetary-
cue categories, as presented in Figure 1c), and one control
cue. Brain responses during the reward-outcome phase were
modeled as events time-locked to participantsresponses in
the discrimination task (Figure 1b). Rewards were displayed
only after correct responses with 25, 50, or 75% probabilities
(Figure 1c), which gave 5 conditions (erotic reward/lack of
erotic reward, monetary reward/lack of monetary reward,
lack of reward following control cue) without hedonic
ratings. Details of signal preprocessing are provided in
Supplementary Material.
Table 1 Subject Characteristics
Control Sub (N=24), mean (SD) PPU (N=28), mean (SD) p-Value
Age, years 30.49 (7.55) 30.96 (6.51) NS
a
Monthly income
b
3360 PLN (2264)
c
3463 PLN (2491)
c
NS
a
Average pornography consumption per week
d
50.77 min (42.6) 287.87 min (258.4) o0.001
Longest time of pornography consumption in 1 day
e
70.55 min (52.8) 284.74 min (321.3) =0.002
Average frequency of masturbation per week
d
2.37 (1.46) 5.66 (3.04) o0.001
Max number of masturbations in 1 day 3.10 (1.17) 5.21 (2.75) o0.001
Sex Addiction Screening TestRevised (SAST-R) 2.67 (2.12) 11.46 (4.95) o0.001
Brief Pornography Screener (BPS)
f
2.88 (3.24) 5.91 (2.96) =0.005
Sexual Arousability Inventory (SAI) 83.39 (19.27) 88.64 (19.89) NS
a
Obsessive Compulsive InventoryRevised (OCI-R)
f
14.13 (6.73) 15.77 (10.10) NS
a
UPPS-P Impulsive Behaviour Scale (UPPS-P)
f
130.73 (24.97) 131.87 (25.37) NS
a
Eysenks Impulsivity InventoryImpulsivity (IVE-I) 5.95 (3.85) 6.95 (5.01) NS
a
Eysenks Impulsivity InventoryRisk Taking (IVE-R) 9.41 (4.01) 9.9 (3.96) NS
a
State-Trait Anxiety InventoryState (STAI-S) 33.79 (6.35) 37.69 (9.36) NS
a
State-Trait Anxiety InventoryTrait (STAI-T) 37.83 (6.96) 43.60 (9.88) =0.022
Substance use prior to fMRI session Number of subjects using substances within the last: 24 h/27 days/890 days/490 days/never
Tobacco 3/2/4/10/5 3/6/5/11/6
Alcohol 0/11/11/2/0 0/11/11/6/0
Marijuana 0/1/3/12/7 0/3/5/14/6
References for questionnaires: SAST-R (Carnes et al, 2010; Gola et al, 2016b); BPS (Kraus et al, 2017; see Supplementary Materials); SAI (Gola et al, 2015; Hoon et al,
1976); OCI-R (Foa et al, 2002); UPPS-P (Poprawa, 2016; Whiteside and Lynam, 2003); IVE-I/R (Jaworowska, 2011); STAI-S/T (Sosnowski and Wrześniewski, 1983;
Spielberger, 2010).
a
Non-significant: p40.2.
b
Income after taxes.
c
1 PLN is approximately 0.25 EUR. Average monthly income after taxes in Poland in 2014 was 2865 PLN or about 716 EUR.
d
Averaged across three self-reports about eighth, fourth and last week before the fMRI recording (see Figure 1a) as all assessments at the 3 time points were highly
related to each other within each domain (pornography use measure 1 and 3: R=0.871; po0.01; and masturbation: R=0.792; po0.01).
e
Longest time spent on pornography consumption within 24 h period (1 day).
f
These questionnaires were administered during the second assessment (4 weeks before fMRI session). Owing to the time needed for development and validation of
Polish language versions, these questionnaires were added during the study and 16 CSubs and 22 PPU subjects completed them. All other questionnaires were
administered during the first assessment in all subjects (8 weeks before fMRI session). Sexual activity was assessed during all three assessments.
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M Gola et al
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Neuropsychopharmacology
Regions of Interests
We used a striatal ROI defined a priori based on a previous
meta-analysis of reward anticipation (Liu et al, 2011); 8 mm
spheres were centered around: Left: x=12, y=10 z=6;
Right: x=12, y=10, z=4). To focus on our hypothesis and
keep this manuscript concise, we present only analyses using
the a priori-defined ROI of the ventral striatum. For control
purposes, we also defined an ROI in Heschls gyrus, where,
according to our predictions, no group or condition
differences were observed. The ROI was based on the
corresponding mask in the AAL atlas taken from the WFU
PickAtlas toolbox (version 3.0.5). The percentage of signal
change was calculated with the MarsBaR toolbox (http://
marsbar.sourceforge.net). We report significant brain activa-
tions within the ROI (Figures 2,3,4, Supplementary
Figure S1) that survived family-wise-error (FWE) correction
for multiple comparisons using small-volume correction
(P
SVC-FWE
o0.05). Owing to the very similar effects for left
and right ROIs, we present only results averaged across
hemispheres.
Statistical Analysis
For statistical analyses, IBM SPSS 22 (IBM Released 2013,
Armonk, NY: IBM) and MATLAB R2014a (The Math-
Works, Natick, MA, USA) were used. Owing to high
correlations across time (at the three time points: 8 weeks,
4 weeks, and 1 day before the fMRI) within self-assessed
pornography use (R=0.871; po0.01) and masturbation
(R=0.792; po0.01), we computed average scores across
time for each variable (Figure 1a; Table 1). For testing group-
by-trial-type interactions and main effects of group and trial
type in BOLD signal from the ROIs, General Linear Models
(GLMs) and Fishers F tests were used (ANOVA with trial
type, magnitude of cue, and probability of cue as within-
subject factors and group as a between-subject factor;
Figures 2 and 4, Supplementary Figure S1). The same GLMs
were used for analysis of RTs (Figures 2 and 3,
Supplementary Figure S1 and S2), accuracy, and hedonic
value (Figure 2,Supplementary Figure S2). All post hoc
comparisons were conducted with BonferroniHolms cor-
rection. Correlations between BOLD signal and measures of
symptoms were computed only for measures significantly
differentiating PPU subjects from CSubs (SAST-R, BPS,
amount of pornography use, and masturbation). Owing to
the discrete thresholding of SAST-R scores and skewedness
of distributions of the three other measures, Spearmans Rho
was used to compute covariance.
RESULTS
Between-Group Differences
Men seeking treatment for PPU and CSubs did not differ in
age, income, impulsivity, or compulsivity (Table 1).
Figure 2 Behavioral and neuroimaging results. (a) Comparison of RTs in the discrimination task (see Figure 1b). (b) Comparison of accuracy. (c)
Comparison of hedonic value ratings (see Figure 1b). (d) Comparison of BOLD signal change in the ventral striatum for cue presentation (BOLD signal
averaged across 2 a priori defined regions of interests in the left and right brain hemisphere: 8-mm spheres centered around: Left: x=12, y=10 z=6;
Right: x=12, y=10, z=4). (e) Comparison of BOLD signal response in the ventral striatum for reward presentation. All post hoc tests were carried out with
Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons. Error bars indicates SEM. *po0.05; ***po0.001. CSub, control subjects; PPU, problematic pornography
users.
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M Gola et al
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Neuropsychopharmacology
Although no subjects met criteria for anxiety disorders, men
with PPU as compared with CSubs exhibited higher trait
anxiety (t(50) =2.37; p=0.022; STAI-T). No difference in
self-declared sexual arousability (SAI) was observed; how-
ever, men with PPU as compared with CSubs showed higher
sexual arousability for compensatory activities such as
pornography use and masturbation on the corresponding
SAI subscale (t(46) =3.348; p=0.002).
As anticipated, men with PPU as compared with CSubs
demonstrated higher scores on the Sex Addiction Screening
TestRevised (SAST-R; t(50) =8.539; po0.001) and Brief
Pornography Screening Test (BPS; t(36) =2.998; p=0.005)
and reported more pornography use (t(50) =3.776;
po0.001) and more frequent masturbation (t(50) =5.042;
po0.001) during the weeks preceding fMRI.
Both groups had similar accuracy for monetary and erotic
trials (Figure 2b) and obtained similar amounts of monetary
wins (CSubs: M=187.41 PLN; SD =22.83, PPU subjects:
M=182.14 PLN; SD =20.56).
Behavioral Results
We analyzed RTs, accuracy, and hedonic value ratings. A
significant group-by-cue-type interaction on RTs was
observed (F(1,50) =5.112; p=0.028). The shortest RTs were
observed in men with PPU during erotic trials (Figure 2a).
Main effects of group (F(1,50) =0.223; p=0.639) or cue type
(F(1,50) =0.390; p=0.535) were insignificant. We observed a
significant main effect of cue magnitude on RTs (F(1,50) =
42.152; po0.000001; Figure 3a). RTs in trials with cues
predicting large rewards were shorter. We found a significant
interaction between the type and magnitude of cue
(F(1,50) =7.416; p=0.009). As there were no interactions
of probability and group both in RTs (F(2,50) =1.132;
p=0.331) and BOLD response (F(2,50) =2.046; p=0.135),
we present these results in Supplementary Material
(Supplementary Figure S1). There was also a main effect of
cue probability on RTs (F(2,50) =20.671; po0.000001), but
no group-by-probability interaction (F(2,50) =1.132;
p=0.331); thus, we present these results in Supplementary
Material (Supplementary Figure S1).
Analysis of accuracy revealed interesting results. Although
there was no group (F(1,50) =0.619; p=0.435) or group-by-
cue-type interaction (F(1,50) =0.002; p=0.969) in accuracy
for reward-related cues (monetary and erotic), there was a
trend toward an effect of group-by-cue-type interaction
taking into account non-rewarded control cues (F(2,100) =
3.014; p=0.054). This pattern appears driven by decreased
accuracy of PPU men (compared with CSubs) on control
(non-rewarded) trials (t(50) =2.084; p=0.045). This result
shows that, while PPU and CSubs have comparable accuracy
in trials providing chance for a reward (monetary and
erotic), PPU men demonstrate decreased accuracy in
non-rewarded (control) trials (Figure 2b).
No differences were observed in hedonic value ratings
(F(1,50) =0.187; p=0.667; Figure 2c), which may be
considered declarative measure of liking.
Neuroimaging Results
Similar to RTs, cue-related reactivity of the ventral striatum
demonstrated a group-by-cue-type interaction (F(1,50) =
6.886; p=0.011; Figure 2d). Men with PPU and CSubs
differed significantly in reactivity for erotic (t(50) =2.624;
p=0.011) but not monetary (t(50) =0.047; p=0.963) cues.
During the reward-processing phase, a main effect of cue type
was observed (F(1,50) =44.308; po0.001), but no between-
group differences were observed (F(1,50) =0.061; p=0.806).
Also no group-by-reward-type interaction (F(1,50) =0.2.054;
p=0.158) was observed. These results indicate that PPU men
and CSubs differ during the cue phase but demonstrate similar
ventral striatal reactivity in the reward phase, with results
showing a significant three-way group-by-cue-type-by-proces-
sing-phase (cue vs reward) interaction (F(1,50) =5.438;
p=0.024). The results are consistent with a dissociation
between brain measures of wantingand likingof erotic
stimuli in PPU subjects but not in CSubs.
We also observed a significant group-by-cue-type-by-
magnitude interaction in ventral striatal BOLD signal change
during the cue phase (F(1,50) =5.432; p=0.024). Although
for monetary cues, there was no group-by-magnitude
interaction (F(1,50) =0.613; p=0.482) or main effect of
group (F(1,50) =0.002; p=0.963), the group-by-magnitude
interaction (F(1,50) =8.273; p=0.007) and main effect of
group (F(1,50) =5.914; p=0.019) were significant for erotic
cues. The findings indicate that stronger BOLD response in
Figure 3 Between-group differences in ventral striatal reactivity for cues
predicting small and large magnitudes of monetary (green) and erotic (red)
rewards. (a) Comparison of RTs for cues predictive of small and large
rewards. (b) Comparison of BOLD signal response in the ventral striatum
(the same ROIs as in Figure 2) for presentations of cues with different
magnitudes. Error bars indicates SEM. **po0.01; ***po0.001. CSub,
control subjects; PPU, problematic pornography users.
Can pornography be addictive?
M Gola et al
2026
Neuropsychopharmacology
the ventral striatum for erotic cues among PPU men
(compared with CSubs) is modulated by magnitude of
erotic cue (Figure 3b). The whole-brain BOLD response
for the second-level contrast PPU
(high4low magnitude)
4
CSubs
(high4low magnitude)
is presented in Supplementary
Figure S3. We also observed a main effect of cue probability
on ventral striatal BOLD signal change (F(2,50) =5.379;
p=0.006). As there were no group-by-probability effects
(F(2,50) =2.046; p=0.135), we present these results in
Supplementary Materials (Supplementary Figure S1).
Relationships Between Behavioral and Neuroimaging
Results and Clinical Features of PPU
In line with previous work (Sescousse et al, 2013, 2015), we
computed for each subject the differential reactivity to
monetary vs erotic cues by subtracting the corresponding
striatal BOLD responses. We also calculated a relative-
motivation index measured as the difference in mean RTs for
monetary and erotic trials. The brain-behavior correlation
between these two measures was strongly significant
(R=0.76; po0.0001, Figure 4a). Next, we examined how
individual differences in ventral striatal reactivity for erotic
vs monetary cues related to four measures differentiating
both groups (Table 1): severity of CSB symptoms measured
with the SAST-R (Rho =0.31; p=0.01; Figure 4b), porno-
graphy craving measured with the BPS (Rho =0.264;
p=0.055), amount of pornography consumption (Rho =
0.305; p=0.015; Figure 4c), and number of masturbations
per week (Rho =0.296; p=0.018; Figure 4d). Bonferroni
Holms correction for multiple comparisons was used. We
also examined how individual differences in ventral striatal
reactivity for erotic vs monetary cues related to masturbation
(Rho =0.313; p=0.034) and amount of pornography con-
sumption (Rho =0.47; p=0.054) only among PPU subjects.
In the next step, we checked whether an analogous index
of liking would be related to behavioral measures. For this
purpose, we calculated an individual relative-liking index
measured as differences in ventral striatal reactivity for erotic
and monetary rewards. We related this index to individual
differences in ratings of rewardshedonic values and the
same four measures differentiating both groups as above.
None of the correlations were significant.
DISCUSSION
Our results, in line with the Incentive Salience Theory (IST;
Berridge, 2012; Gola et al, 2016c; Robinson and Berridge,
1993; Robinson et al, 2015), indicate that men seeking
treatment for PPU when compared with CSubs show
increased ventral striatal reactivity for cues predicting erotic
pictures (but not for cues predicting monetary gains). Such
increased striatal reactivity for cues predicting erotic content
is followed by higher motivation (reflected in shorter RTs) to
view erotic rewards (Figures 2a, 2d and 4a). Consistent with
the IST (Robinson and Berridge, 1993; Robinson et al, 2015),
these results suggest increased wantingevoked specifically
by an initially neutral cue predictive for erotic rewards. Also
as predicted by the IST, a neural indicator of wanting
(BOLD response in the ventral striatum) is dissociated from
measures of likingamong PPU men but not CSubs, and this
was reflected in three-way interactions between incentives
(monetary vs erotic), group (CSubs vs PPU), and experi-
mental phase (cue vs reward). In other words, subjects who
seek treatment for PPU expressed higher motivational
behavior for cues predictive of erotic content. This motivated
behavior (wanting, probably related to the expectation of
highly rewarding value of pornography) is dissociated from
actual liking: PPU subjects did not differ from CSubs in
BOLD response for erotic pictures (reward phase) or hedonic
values ratings (Figures 2c and 2e). Moreover, the differential
striatal reactivity to erotic vs monetary cues (but not
rewards) was related not only to indicators of motivated
Figure 4 Correlations of ventral striatal cue-reactivity with amount of pornography use, frequency of masturbation, and clinical features of PPU. The
correlations between differential striatal reactivity to monetary vs erotic cues and (a) relative motivation index measured as difference between RTs for
monetaryerotic trials; (b) severity of CSB measured by the Sexual Addictions Screening TestRevised (20 points scale, which was not used at recruitment
phase); (c) average amount of pornography consumption per week, and (d) frequency of masturbation per week. Error lines depicts 95% confidence intervals.
BonferroniHolms correction was used for multiple comparisons. CSub, control subjects; PPU, problematic pornography users.
Can pornography be addictive?
M Gola et al
2027
Neuropsychopharmacology
behaviors during the study (RTs; Figure 4a) but also to the
severity of CSB (measured with the SAST-R; Figure 4b),
amount of pornography consumption, and frequency of
masturbation (Figures 4c and 4d) reported during the
2 months preceding fMRI.
This pattern of increased cue-related wantingdissociated
from reward-related likingresembles findings in addictions
(Robinson et al, 2015; Sescousse et al, 2013). Specific cues
(predictive for addiction-related rewards) evoke activations
of brainreward systems associated with striatal responses
(Flagel et al, 2011; Oei et al, 2012; Robinson and Berridge,
1993; Smith et al, 2011) and motivations to approach
rewards, but experienced hedonic value (Berridge, 2012;
Robinson et al, 2015) or striatal response for reward (Flagel
et al, 2011) are not proportional to ones evoked by the
preceding cue. These findings are consistent with an
impaired mechanism of updating cue-related predictions
about expected values of erotic stimuli, similar to mechan-
isms proposed for substance-use disorders (Parvaz et al,
2015; Tanabe et al, 2013), although this possibility warrants
direct investigation. Given the role of the ventral striatum in
reward anticipation (Balodis and Potenza, 2015), initially
neutral stimuli (akin to cues introduced in our experimental
procedure) may become for men with PPU powerful
incentives under the circumstances of pairing them with
erotic images. Our results show that individuals with PPU
are much more sensitive (then CSubs) for cues signaling
erotic rewards (Figure 2d) and the magnitude of the expected
erotic reward further modulates the ventral striatal reactivity
in men with PPU, which does not happen among CSubs
(Figure 4). These results are in line with recent studies
showing stronger effects of conditioning for cues predicting
explicit sexual content among individuals with CSB com-
pared with CSubs (Banca et al, 2016; Klucken et al, 2016).
Along with these and other studies (Gola et al, 2016c;
Mechelmans et al, 2014), our results suggest that conditioned
stimuli associated with erotic rewards may overshadow
motivational values of alternate sources of reward in men
with PPU, eventually leading to PPU. However, longitudinal
studies are needed to examine this hypothesis.
Our results show that PPU is related to alterations in
motivational processes. Besides increased striatal response
for cues predicting erotic rewards and accompanying
increases in motivated behaviors (RTs to erotic cues), men
with PPU also exhibited a decrease in motivated behaviors
for non-rewarded trials (lower accuracy, Figure 2b) when
compared with CSubs. This finding raises questions whether
men with PPU may have more generalized impairments of
reward processing, in line with a reward deficiency
syndrome theory (Comings and Blum, 2000), which would
predict decreased striatal reactivity and accompanying
hedonic values for both types of rewards (erotic and
monetary) in the reward phase. Here we show that this is
not the case; men with and without PPU do not differ in
striatal reactivity and hedonic values either for erotic or
monetary rewards. The key difference between these two
groups is in striatal reactivity (and accompanying behavioral
reactions) in response for cues.
In our study, we have made the assumption that RTs
(Figure 4a) directly reflect motivation. Such a coupling has
been assumed in several previous studies (Clithero et al,
2011; Sescousse et al, 2015) and is grounded in
computational work linking motivation and vigor via
dopamine (Niv et al, 2007). Also we think that two aspects
of our design help narrowing the interpretation of RTs in
terms of motivation rather than response vigor. The first is
that the motor component of our task was not a simple target
detection task but a discrimination task with two possible
button responses, precluding the interpretation of differences
in RTs in terms of motor preparation. In addition, the use of
the monetary cue condition can be regarded as a baseline
condition controlling for group differences in response vigor
or motor activation. Yet, in the absence of self-report
wantingratings, we cannot rule out the potential influence
of motor activation on RTs. Complementary procedures
such as preference tasks could be used in future studies to
refine the interpretation of the current results. Additionally,
given possible carry-over effects, we cannot entirely exclude
the potential influence of rewards on subsequent cue
processing, although we believe that our counter-balanced
task design helps to mitigate against this possibility.
Despite the above-mentioned limitations, our findings
indicate that increased cue-reactivity among men with PPU
is not a general dysfunction but is related to cues predictive
of erotic but not monetary rewards. This selective mechan-
ism of increased reactivity for erotic but not monetary cues
among men with PPU speaks in favor of the IST (Robinson
and Berridge, 1993) rather than more generalize impair-
ments of reward processing proposed in example by
theoretical frameworks, such as the reward deficiency
syndrome (Comings and Blum, 2000). Lack of between-
group differences in compulsivity (measured with the OCI-
R) and in responses to monetary cues, speaks also against
conceptualization within an OCD framework (Kor et al,
2013), as OCD patients present decreased striatal BOLD
response for cues predictive for monetary gains when
compared with CSubs (Figee et al, 2011). However, it is
important to note that we were excluding all subjects with
comorbid psychiatric disorders (approximately 50% of
treatment-seeking individuals were excluded for this reason
during the initial screening procedure), so our conclusion
about a lack of generalized reward processing impairment
may not generalize to men with PPU and comorbid
disorders. Despite this limitation, the exclusion of individuals
with PPU and co-occurring psychiatric disorders permitted
for a more focused study on mechanisms underlying
PPU and excludes possible effects of psychopathology.
Additional limitations include the exclusion of women, and
future studies should examine the extent to which the
findings extend to women with PPU. Additionally, future
studies should examine how neurobiological and clinical
measures might relate to treatment outcomes for individuals
with PPU.
CONCLUSIONS
Men with PPU showed increased activation of the ventral
striatum specifically for cues predicting erotic but not
monetary rewards. In PPU subjects, this brain activation
was accompanied by measures suggesting increased beha-
vioral motivation to view erotic images (higher wanting).
Ventral striatal reactivity for cues signaling erotic pictures
(but not for erotic pictures per se) was significantly related to
Can pornography be addictive?
M Gola et al
2028
Neuropsychopharmacology
severity of CSB, amount of pornography use per week, and
frequency of masturbation. The findings suggest similarities
between PPU and addictions and an important role for
learned cues in PPU. Identifying PPU-related triggers and
targeting the dissociation of learned cues from problematic
behaviors may be useful in the treatment of PPU. Future
studies should examine specific treatments, as well as
determine the prevalence and clinical correlates of PPU,
and identify predisposing factors for PPU.
FUNDING AND DISCLOSURE
This study was supported by the Polish National Science
Centre, OPUS grant number 2014/15/B/HS6/03792 (to MG).
MG was also supported by the Polish Ministry of Science
scholarships (1057/MOB/2013/0 and 469/STYP/10/2015),
scholarship Start of Foundation for Polish Science and
scholarship of The Kosciuszko Fundation. GS was supported
by a Veni grant from The Netherlands Research Organiza-
tion (NWO). MNP is supported by the National Center on
Addiction and Substance Abuse and the National Center for
Responsible Gaming. The views presented in the article do
not necessarily reflect those of the funding agencies and
rather reflect those of the authors. MNP has consulted for
and advised Ironwood, Lundbeck, INSYS, Shire, RiverMend
Health, Opiant/Lakelight Therapuetics, and Jazz Pharma-
ceuticals; has received research support from Mohegan Sun
Casino, the National Center for Responsible Gaming, and
Pfizer; has participated in surveys, mailings or telephone
consultations related to drug addiction, impulse-control
disorders, or other health topics; has consulted for
gambling and legal entities on issues related to impulse-
control and addictive disorders; provides clinical care in the
Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction
Services Problem Gambling Services Program; has
performed grant reviews for the National Institutes of
Health and other agencies; has edited journals or journal
sections; has given academic lectures in grand rounds, CME
events, and other clinical or scientific venues; and has
generated books or book chapters for publishers of mental
health texts. MLS has consulted for Eli Lilly, PPF Hasco,
Lundbeck, National Bureau for Drug Prevention (Poland),
Pfizer, Polpharma and Verco; has received research support
from the Polish Ministry of Science and the European
Society for Sexual Medicine. MLS provides medical care in
the III Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry and
Neurology, Warsaw, Poland, and in the Lew-Starowicz
Therapy Centre. MLS is the Editor of Sexological Review
journal, has given academic lectures in CME events and
generated books or book chapters for publishers of mental
health texts. The other authors declare no conflict of interest.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We are grateful to all participants who agreed to be involved
in this study; M Skorko and the VR Lab (http://vrlab.edu.pl/)
for the possibility of using the GEx platform to collect the
questionnaire data; and M Wilk, P Winkielman, J Rapela, E
Kowalewska, M Bielecki, P Holas, ŁOkruszek, ŁGłowacki,
W Ciemniewski, and D Baran for help and comments. This
project was realized with the aid of CePT research
infrastructure purchased with funds from the European
Regional Development Fund as part of the Innovative
Economy Operational Programme, 20072013.
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
MG, GS, and AM designed the project. MG, GS, and BK
prepared experimental procedures. MG and ML-S recruited
subjects and collected clinical data. M Wordecha conducted
the experiments. MG, M Wordecha, BK, M Wypych, and
AM performed the statistical analysis. MG, GS, MNP, and M
Wordecha analyzed the findings. MG, GS, and MNP wrote
the manuscript.
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... Moreover, the structural and functional aspects of the brain, such as gray matter volume in the right caudate, functional activity in the left putamen, and functional connectivity of the right caudate to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, can be influenced by pornography (16). Internet pornography addiction (17) and problematic pornography use (18) can influence the ventral striatum. Problematic pornography use was also regarded as an addiction (18,19). ...
... Internet pornography addiction (17) and problematic pornography use (18) can influence the ventral striatum. Problematic pornography use was also regarded as an addiction (18,19). ...
... After mixed-ANOVA and FDR correction with the 0.05 p-threshold value, the Oxy-Hb in channels 1, 2, 9, 16, 17, 18 and the Total-Hb in channels 1,2,9,15,16,17,18 were significantly different between female yaoi fans and nonfans. The SI score was Table 2. ...
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Yaoi has a great deal of active fans recently. Enjoying yaoi, encompassing the addiction of male-to-male pornography and love, mostly begins at puberty. Yaoi has had a great influence on the sex education and school education of adolescent females. However, this enjoying is difficult to be accepted as part of mainstream culture. Considering the immense time, money and energy costs invested in yaoi, understanding the reason individuals indulge in yaoi is necessary to parents and education institutions. Unfortunately, it is unclear what effect prolonged attachment to this form of entertainment might have on brains of individuals influenced by yaoi pornographic descriptions. Our research firstly found compelling differences in prefrontal cortex and behavioral responses among individuals with different yaoi exposure histories.
... While the majority of pornography users do not nucleus accumbens and ventral striatum in response to have problems, about 1-3% report being addicted to sexually explicit materials, the same areas that are pornography [6,7,18]. Self-reported pornography activated in relation to craving states and drug-cue addiction is becoming an increasing reason for seeking reactivity in patients with chemical addictions [31,32]. treatment at outpatient clinics in many parts of the world These neurobiological findings have led to arguing for [19][20][21]. ...
... treatment at outpatient clinics in many parts of the world These neurobiological findings have led to arguing for [19][20][21]. Though pornography use is prevalent in Nigeria, pornography addictions to be categorized as an addictive sex is not an openly discussed topic even in clinical disorder [9,[32][33][34]. However, there are others who argue encounters, therefore, it is highly unlikely that people for classification within the group of Impulse Control with pornography addiction will seek orthodox treatment. ...
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Controversies exist as to the existence of pornographic addiction and how it should be defined. Currently, the proposed ICD-11 classification classifies pornographic addiction under the impulse control disorder section as there is not enough evidence of its similarity with chemical addictions and behavioral addiction. In Nigeria, there is scant literature on pornographic addiction. However, with the steady rise in internet penetration in the nation, pornographic use is increasing and the country ranks high among those that search for pornography on the internet. Therefore, problematic pornographic use and pornography addiction may represent a hidden disorder with an unknown burden and magnitude. This paper presents a case report of a young male with pornography addiction with comorbid psychiatric disorder presenting to a tertiary hospital in Nigeria.
... While the majority of pornography users do not nucleus accumbens and ventral striatum in response to have problems, about 1-3% report being addicted to sexually explicit materials, the same areas that are pornography [6,7,18]. Self-reported pornography activated in relation to craving states and drug-cue addiction is becoming an increasing reason for seeking reactivity in patients with chemical addictions [31,32]. treatment at outpatient clinics in many parts of the world These neurobiological findings have led to arguing for [19][20][21]. ...
... treatment at outpatient clinics in many parts of the world These neurobiological findings have led to arguing for [19][20][21]. Though pornography use is prevalent in Nigeria, pornography addictions to be categorized as an addictive sex is not an openly discussed topic even in clinical disorder [9,[32][33][34]. However, there are others who argue encounters, therefore, it is highly unlikely that people for classification within the group of Impulse Control with pornography addiction will seek orthodox treatment. ...
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Full-text available
Controversies exist as to the existence of pornographic addiction and how it should be defined. Currently, the proposed ICD-11 classification classifies pornographic addiction under the impulse control disorder section as there is not enough evidence of its similarity with chemical addictions and behavioral addiction. In Nigeria, there is scant literature on pornographic addiction. However, with the steady rise in internet penetration in the nation, pornographic use is increasing and the country ranks high among those that search for pornography on the internet. Therefore, problematic pornographic use and pornography addiction may represent a hidden disorder with an unknown burden and magnitude. This paper presents a case report of a young male with pornography addiction with comorbid psychiatric disorder presenting to a tertiary hospital in Nigeria.
... Parallel to that process, the term Problematic usage of the internet (PUI) was coined to describe dysfunctional engagement with multiple facets of internet based activities [3] and PUI is now linked with adverse sequelae in life, including, but not exhaustively poorer health, worse social, vocational or academic outcomes or lower quality of life [2][3][4]. When PUI is considered categorically, using case-control cross sectional comparisons, it has been associated with structural (reduced gray matter of the supplementary motor area (SMA), left anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) [9 ]), and functional (imbalances involving the fronto-striatal circuits in various facets of PUI [10][11][12]13 ]) neurobiological abnormalities supporting its validity as a construct worth considering in its own right [9 ,13 ,14 ]. Most importantly, and for the specific context of this review, it has been suggested that cognitive processes and cognitive responses to specific stimuli form part of the core predisposing parameters influencing the development and establishment of repetitive maladaptive online behaviors [13 ]. ...
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In this current opinions article we synthesize recent evidence exploring neurocognitive deficits in problematic usage of the internet, which support the notion that inhibitory control and decision making deficits occur in problematic usage versus controls, strengthening its theoretical conceptualization. Potential confounders, notably IQ and the presence of comorbidities from the impulsive/compulsive spectrum may account for some of these identified deficits. Most studies focused on gaming, whereas other facets remain relatively understudied. The literature has high levels of methodological issues, such as using non-validated thresholds/instruments, examining only a narrow range of cognitive domains, and overlooking potentially confounding comorbid disorders. Longitudinal studies with rigorous methodologies are needed to address whether cognitive problems associated with problematic internet use play a role in vulnerability, chronicity, or both.
... The number of searches reached 1.5 million on March 5th. The problem with pornography is that it changes the brain structure (Kühn and Gallinat, 2014;Gola et al., 2017). Furthermore, due to an individual's desire for greater reward, newer, more extraordinary, and pathological content is sought (Love et al. 2015), which could explain the search for corona-related porn content. ...
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Pred Vama je četvrti broj naučnog časopisa “Acta Catallactics, časopis za ekonomska i opšta društvena pitanja” koji je osnovan 2019. godine i izlazi dva puta godišnje u izdanju udruženja “Multi” i Visoke škole “Internacionalna poslovno-informaciona akademija” Tuzla. Prvi i drugi brojevi časopisa su prigodni, na bazi knjige “Populizam, izabrane teme” i DIEC, treće međunarodne naučne konferencije o digitalnoj ekonomiji. Treći i četvrti broj časopisa je obuhvatio nove radove koji su recenzirani za potrebe objavljivanja.
... Nonetheless, there is little evidence that considers these behaviors as causes of dependence or addiction. 15,18 In this context, "pornography dependence" is not a formally recognized disorder, mainly because of disagreements among researchers regarding the concept and clinical features and even its existence. 12,15,19,20 However, self-perceived pornography dependence and its perception by health professionals and some researchers, which emerged in the 1970s, has become more relevant since the 1990s as a concept in research as well as in clinical practice. ...
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Aims: This study aims to analyze the mechanisms through which the Covid-19 pandemic impacts on well-being at work and productivity. The secondary objective is to identify stress management strategies in the work environment during the pandemic time. Methods: This is an integrative review. Phase 1 consisted of a search for 2020 papers regarding mental health, work and the pandemics in free access electronic databases (MEDLINE, SCIELO, Bireme and LILACS). Phase 2 consisted of literature indicated by specialists in occupational psychiatry and positive psychology. These materials were read and critically analyzed. Results: As a result of the literature review, 40 references were included. The articles reviewed were divided in the following categories: articles concerning work relationships in Brazil, articles describing the impact of pandemics on mental health and work, articles focusing on the work of health professionals during pandemics, articles about well-being at work, and papers proposing strategies to improve well-being and productivity and promote mental health. Discussion: The Covid-19 pandemic can cause a significant impact on workers' mental health and productivity. Most professionals face the need to adapt to changes, which can decrease the feeling of well-being. Consequently, strategies to promote well-being and mental health at the work environment should be a priority. Conclusion: The work routines were modified after the installation of the Covid-19 pandemic and assessing these changes is essential to maintain workers' mental health. In this way, it is possible to achieve the promotion of general well-being, the reduction of stress, and the post-traumatic growth.
... Therefore, religious beliefs may be associated with greater likelihoods of problematic pornography use (PPU). PPU may be considered a behavioral addiction characterized by impaired control over pornography use, increasing priority given to pornography use, and continuation or escalation of pornography use despite negative consequences, with the pattern of pornography use resulting in functional impairment in daily life and/or marked distress [54][55][56]. PPU may allow individuals to escape the "oppression" of religion [57]. In previous studies, greater religious participation was found to be related to more daily pornography use [58]. ...
Article
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Purpose of Review The present review focuses on relationships between sexuality and religion, moral values, and ethics. Recent Findings Religious and ethical beliefs and moral values may influence sexuality including perception of pornography and its frequency of use, and engagement in sexual behaviors including pornography viewing may impact these domains. Summary Within this context, implications for sexuality and related psychiatric conditions and models (e.g., relating to compulsive sexual behavior disorder and moral incongruence) are considered.
... An over 25-year discussion in the scientific and clinical community on the conceptualization of problematic sexual behavior abounded in various approaches, and thus also the terms used. These behaviors are most often referred to as compulsive sexual behaviors (1)(2)(3), but also as sexual addiction or sexual dependence (4-7), (nonparaphilic) hypersexuality (8)(9)(10)(11)(12)(13), sexual impulsivity (14,15), satyriasis and nymphomania (16,17), or out-of-control sexual behavior (18). We use the term compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) throughout this article. ...
Chapter
This chapter is rather descriptive than analytical, with the aim to provide a semiotic insight into the substantial cultural changes in the way sexuality is experienced in the age of the internet. The main focus is on the way new communication technologies and the mechanisms of Web 2.0 have changed the intimate relations, how they have commercialized sex in its core functions, how the digitalization of prostitution has changed its commercial structure, etc., all in favour of transforming this crucial aspect of our lives to suit the experience economy. More concretely, particular considerations are dedicated to cyber dating and hookup culture, to erotica and pornography websites, to videogames, to webcamming, hidden cams, and online voyeurism, to sex workers’ platforms, websites, and forums, to digitally engineered sex and to the dark side of the net: cyberbullying, online pedophilia, revenge porn, etc.
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Diagnoses that could refer to compulsive sexual behavior have been included in the DSM and ICD for years and can now be diagnosed legitimately in the United States using both DSM-5 and the recently mandated ICD-10 diagnostic coding. Compulsive sexual behavior disorder is being considered for ICD-11.
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There is an increasing number of neuroimaging studies using visual sexual stimuli (VSS), especially within the emerging field of research on compulsive sexual behaviors (CSB). A central question in this field is whether behaviors such as excessive pornography consumption share common brain mechanisms with widely studied substance and behavioral addictions. Depending on how VSS are conceptualized, different predictions can be formulated within the frameworks of Reinforcement Learning or Incentive Salience Theory, where a crucial distinction is made between conditioned and unconditioned stimuli (related to reward anticipation vs. reward consumption, respectively). Surveying 40 recent human neuroimaging studies we show existing ambiguity about the conceptualization of VSS. Therefore, we feel that it is important to address the question of whether VSS should be considered as conditioned stimuli (cue) or unconditioned stimuli (reward). Here we present our own perspective, which is that in most laboratory settings VSS play a role of reward, as evidenced by: (1) experience of pleasure while watching VSS, possibly accompanied by genital reaction; (2) reward-related brain activity correlated with these pleasurable feelings in response to VSS; (3) a willingness to exert effort to view VSS similarly as for other rewarding stimuli such as money; and (4) conditioning for cues predictive of VSS. We hope that this perspective article will initiate a scientific discussion on this important and overlooked topic and increase attention for appropriate interpretations of results of human neuroimaging studies using VSS.
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Background How best to conceptualize problematic pornography use (PPU) and intervene most effectively remain debated, with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and addiction frameworks. We investigated the efficacy of the serotonin-reuptake inhibitor paroxetine in combination with cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of problematic pornography use (PPU). Case presentation Three heterosexual males with PPU were treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy and paroxetine. Frequency of pornography use, other sexual behaviors, and anxiety were assessed during treatment. Discussion Paroxetine treatment, although seemingly initially effective in reducing pornography use and anxiety, appeared related to new compulsive sexual behaviors after 3 months. Conclusions Paroxetine may hold promise for short-term reduction of PPU and related anxiety, but new potentially distressing sexual behaviors may emerge. The cases suggest that PPU may arise from multiple domains. We propose an explanation of the effects based on recent neuroscientific research on sexual behaviors and alcohol use.
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Introduction: Pornography has become popular with Internet technology. For most people, pornography use (PU) is entertainment; for some, it can result in seeking treatment for out-of-control behavior. Previous studies have suggested that PU can influence sexual behaviors, but the direct relation between frequency of PU and treatment-seeking behaviors has not been examined. Aims: To investigate whether individuals seeking treatment as a consequence of their problematic PU do so because of their quantity of pornography consumption or because of more complex psychological and behavioral factors related to PU, such as the severity of negative symptoms associated with PU and/or subjective feeling of loss of control over one's behavior. Methods: A survey study was conducted of 569 heterosexual Caucasian men 18 to 68 years old, including 132 seeking treatment for problematic PU (referred by psychotherapists after their initial visit). Main outcomes measures: The main outcome measures were self-reported PU, its negative symptoms, and actual treatment-seeking behavior. Results: We tested models explaining sources of seeking treatment for problematic PU with negative symptoms associated with PU and additional factors (eg, onset and number of years of PU, religiosity, age, dyadic sexual activity, and relationship status). Seeking treatment was significantly, yet weakly, correlated solely with the frequency of PU (r = 0.21, P < .05) and this relation was significantly mediated by negative symptoms associated with PU (strong, nearly full mediation effect size; k(2) = 0.266). The relation between PU and negative symptoms was significant and mediated by self-reported subjective religiosity (weak, partial mediation; k(2) = 0.066) in those not seeking treatment. Onset of PU and age appeared to be insignificant. Our model was fairly fitted (comparative fit index = 0.989; root mean square error of approximation = 0.06; standardized root mean square residual = 0.035) and explained 43% of the variance in treatment-seeking behavior (1% was explained by frequency of PU and 42% was explained by negative symptoms associated with PU). Conclusion: Negative symptoms associated with PU more strongly predict seeking treatment than mere quantity of pornography consumption. Thus, treatment of problematic PU should address qualitative factors, rather than merely mitigating the frequency of the behavior, because frequency of PU might not be a core issue for all patients. Future diagnostic criteria for problematic PU should consider the complexity of this issue.
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Objectives: Addictive sexual behaviours are gaining more and more attention from researchers. There are actually 25 different questionnaires for assessing the level of loss of control over sexual. The main aim of this work was to make such an adaptation of the Sexual Addiction Screening Test-Revised (SAST-R; the most popular and questionnaire). behaviours (LoCoSB). None of them have been adapted and validated in a Polish language version. Methods: For the purpose of psychometric features examination and validation of the Polish version of SAST-R (SAST-PL-M), we recruited 116 heterosexual men receiving psychological treatment due to LoCoSB and meeting the criteria for hypersexual disorder. The control group consisted of 442 heterosexual males having never looked for any psychological or psychiatric help due to LoCoSB. Results: SAST-PL-M has high reliability (Cronbach's alpha = 0.904) and good filtering characteristics for identification of people who are potentially experiencing difficulty with control over sexual behaviours (the ROC curve for a threshold of 5 out of a maximum 20 points is characterised by a sensitivity of 99.1% and a specificity of 78.3%). Conclusions: SAST-PL-M can be used as an efficient screening test for symptoms of LoCoSB in clinical and research setups. Results below 5 points indicate a high probability of no problems, while more than 5 points can indicate the need for additional clinical interviews. SAST-PL-M results may be successfully referred to the results of SAST-R when used with heterosexual male populations for research purposes.
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Aims: To review the evidence base for classifying compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) as a non-substance or 'behavioral' addiction. Methods: Data from multiple domains (e.g. epidemiological, phenomenological, clinical, biological) are reviewed and considered with respect to data from substance and gambling addictions. Results: Overlapping features exist between CSB and substance use disorders. Common neurotransmitter systems may contribute to CSB and substance use disorders, and recent neuroimaging studies highlight similarities relating to craving and attentional biases. Similar pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatments may be applicable to CSB and substance addictions, although considerable gaps in knowledge currently exist. Conclusions: Despite the growing body of research linking compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) to substance addictions, significant gaps in understanding continue to complicate classification of CSB as an addiction.
Article
Introduction: There has been growing interest in a better understanding of the etiology of compulsive sexual behavior (CSB). It is assumed that facilitated appetitive conditioning might be an important mechanism for the development and maintenance of CSB, but no study thus far has investigated these processes. Aim: To explore group differences in neural activity associated with appetitive conditioning and connectivity in subjects with CSB and a healthy control group. Methods: Two groups (20 subjects with CSB and 20 controls) were exposed to an appetitive conditioning paradigm during a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment, in which a neutral stimulus (CS+) predicted visual sexual stimuli and a second stimulus (CS-) did not. Main outcome measures: Blood oxygen level-dependent responses and psychophysiologic interaction. Results: As a main result, we found increased amygdala activity during appetitive conditioning for the CS+ vs the CS- and decreased coupling between the ventral striatum and prefrontal cortex in the CSB vs control group. Conclusion: The findings show that neural correlates of appetitive conditioning and neural connectivity are altered in patients with CSB. The increased amygdala activation might reflect facilitated conditioning processes in patients with CSB. In addition, the observed decreased coupling could be interpreted as a marker for impaired emotion regulation success in this group.
Article
One type of Internet addiction is excessive pornography consumption, also referred to as cybersex or Internet pornography addiction. Neuroimaging studies found ventral striatum activity when participants watched explicit sexual stimuli compared to non-explicit sexual/erotic material. We now hypothesized that the ventral striatum should respond to preferred pornographic compared to non-preferred pornographic pictures and that the ventral striatum activity in this contrast should be correlated with subjective symptoms of Internet pornography addiction. We studied 19 heterosexual male participants with a picture paradigm including preferred and non-preferred pornographic material. Subjects had to evaluate each picture with respect to arousal, unpleasantness, and closeness to ideal. Pictures from the preferred category were rated as more arousing, less unpleasant, and closer to ideal. Ventral striatum response was stronger for the preferred condition compared to non-preferred pictures. Ventral striatum activity in this contrast was correlated with the self-reported symptoms of Internet pornography addiction. The subjective symptom severity was also the only significant predictor in a regression analysis with ventral striatum response as dependent variable and subjective symptoms of Internet pornography addiction, general sexual excitability, hypersexual behavior, depression, interpersonal sensitivity, and sexual behavior in the last days as predictors. The results support the role for the ventral striatum in processing reward anticipation and gratification linked to subjectively preferred pornographic material. Mechanisms for reward anticipation in ventral striatum may contribute to a neural explanation of why individuals with certain preferences and sexual fantasies are at-risk for losing their control over Internet pornography consumption.