Note from Josh: Internet Addiction

The below stats highlight the physical effects of internet addiction and how it affects the human brain. 

I hope this information gives you insights for your own internet habits,

Josh D. McDowell

Internet Addiction Changes The Brain

“According to NIDA head Nora Volkow, MD, and her team these three physical changes define addiction: desensitization (numbing of the brain’s pleasure response), sensitization, and hypofrontality. These same brain changes (which are now showing up in Internet addicts) also show up in pathological gamblers and drug abusers.”
“…use floods the brain’s reward circuitry with dopamine.”
“Nerve cells respond, more or less quickly, by decreasing their responsiveness to dopamine.”
“As a result, some users feel “off” (desensitization). They crave more intense stimulation (tolerance)…”
“…tend to neglect interests, stimuli, and behaviors that were once important to them.”
“Also, ΔFosB, a protein that helps preserve intense memories and promotes relapse, accumulates in key brain regions. Incidentally, ΔFosB also rises with sexual activity.”
“Said a healthy 37-year old, “When I first watched porn online at age 35, I felt like I was going to have an orgasm without an erection. That’s how powerful an effect it had on me.”
“Numbed pleasure response: A reduction of striatal D2 dopamine receptors is the main marker for desensitization of the reward circuitry, a hallmark of all addictions. In this study PET scans of men with and without Internet addiction were compared.”
Reduced Striatal Dopamine D2 Receptors in People With Internet Addiction (2011).”
“An increasing amount of research has suggested that Internet addiction is associated with abnormalities in the dopaminergic brain system… [In this study] individuals with Internet addiction showed reduced levels of dopamine D2 receptor availability.”
“Sensitization: In this study, college students played Internet video games for 6 weeks. Measurements were done before and after this play period. Those subjects with the highest cravings also had the most changes in their brains that indicate early addiction process. The control group, which played a less stimulating game, had no such brain changes.”
“These changes in frontal-lobe activity with extended video-game play may be similar to those observed during the early stages of addiction.”
“Hypofrontality: In this study, researchers found a 10-20% reduction in frontal cortex gray matter in adolescents with Internet addiction. Research on other addictions has already established that decreases in frontal-lobe gray matter and functioning reduce both impulse control and the ability to foresee consequences.”
“The presence of relatively immature cognitive control, makes [adolescence] a time of vulnerability and adjustment, and may lead to a higher incidence of affective disorders and addiction among adolescents. “As one of the common mental health problems amongst Chinese adolescents, internet addiction disorder (IAD) is currently becoming more and more serious. … The incidence rate of internet addiction among Chinese urban youths is about 14%. … These results demonstrated that as internet addiction persisted, brain atrophy … was more serious.” (Also see this earlier Chinese study.)”
“The characteristics that make Internet porn and video gaming so popular are the same characteristics that give both the power to dysregulate dopamine in some brains. Novelty and ‘stimuli that violate expectations‘ both release dopamine, sending the brain the message that the activity is more valuable than it is. Successful video games deliver a rapid-fire of both novelty and surprise.”
“Today’s porn also delivers both, and constantly ratchets them up. There’s unending novelty and something more startling always beckoning just beyond the next click.”
“There’s also the dopamine released by the “hunt” for the perfect shot. Novelty, shock and hunting absorb the user’s attention because they raise dopamine levels. Intense focus allows users to override their natural satiety mechanisms and, often, to rewire their brains in ways that take a lot of effort to undo.”
“Dopamine, not adrenaline, is at the heart of all addictions. “
“9 out of 10 of college-age men were already using Internet porn three years ago.”
“History is full of examples of ‘common knowledge’ that turned out to be erroneous upon investigation. Consider margarine. Everyone ‘knew’ it was better for you than butter. Experts were so confident of this ‘fact,’ that they didn’t even test it for years, and regularly advised people to substitute margarine for butter. Finally, experts did test the healthfulness of margarine. It turns out that trans-fatty acids (found in margarine) are among the most dangerous fats. They are far worse for humans than butter.”
“Critics may claim that it is “unscientific” to suggest that Internet porn can cause addiction processes in the brain just because Internet addiction clearly does. Actually, it’s unscientific to suggest the reverse.”
“All addictions, including behavioral ones (gambling, food, video games) show hypofrontality (atrophy and lack of impulse control). Frankly, what critics now need to supply is solid, scientific evidence showing that Internet porn addiction is an exception to the rule. To suggest there’s still major doubt about its addictiveness is most unscientific, as it presumes there must be some other brain circuitry for porn use that has yet to be discovered.”

* Gary Wilson, “Ominous News for Porn Users: Internet Addiction Atrophies Brains”, Your Brain on Porn, July 1, 2011,

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