Internet Addiction

Part of the series Studies in Neuroscience, Psychology and Behavioral Economics pp 109-124


Neuroscientific Approaches to (Online) Pornography Addiction

  • Rudolf StarkAffiliated withDepartment of Psychotherapy and Systems Neuroscience, University of Giessen Email author 
  • , Tim KluckenAffiliated withDepartment of Clinical Psychology, University of Siegen

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The availability of pornographic material has substantially increased with the development of the Internet. As a result of this, men ask for treatment more often because their pornography consumption intensity is out of control; i.e., they are not able to stop or reduce their problematic behavior although they are faced with negative consequences. There is a long lasting debate whether these kinds of problems should be conceptualized as a behavior addiction. In the last two decades, several studies with neuroscientific approaches, especially functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), were conducted to explore the neural correlates of watching pornography under experimental conditions and the neural correlates of excessive pornography use. Given previous results, excessive pornography consumption can be connected to already known neurobiological mechanisms underlying the development of substance-related addictions. In the introduction, phenomenological, epidemiological, and diagnostic aspects of a syndrome, which is here labeled pornography addiction, will be described knowing that the adequacy of this terminology has to be further validated. In the second section, after aetiological considerations, contemporary neurobiological models will be presented to offer reference points for the question whether excessive pornography consumption can result in an addiction. In the third section of the chapter, neurobiological findings concerning three topics will be summarized: Neural correlates of watching pornography, cue reactivity and appetitive conditioning, and finally neurobiological characteristics of men with pornography addiction. The present contribution will be rounded off with a short conclusion highlighting possible future research questions.