Gary Wilson: The great experiment

Inspired by the last talker I'm gonna have a little song about Internet porn. No, just kidding. The widespread use of Internet porn is one of the fastes moving most global experiment ever unconsciously conducted. Nearly every young guy with Internet access becomes an eager test subject. Canadian researcher Simon Lajeunesse found that most boys seek pornography by age 10. Driven by a brain that is suddenly fascinated by sex. Now, users perceive Internet porn as far more compelling than porn of the past. Why is that? Unending novelty. In this Australian experiment, it's not mere nudity but novelty that gets arousals skyrocketing. Subjects watch 22 porn displays. See that spike? That's where searchers switch to porn the guys hadn't seen before. What happened? The erections in their brains fired up. Why all the excitement? Mother nature likes to keep a male fertilizing willing females as long as any new ones are around. In that top line the ram, he needs more and more time to make with the same old you. But if you keep switching females -- the bottom line -- well she's not the same. He can get the job done in 2 minutes flat and keep going until he's utterly exhausted. This is known as the Coolidge effect. Without the Coolidge effect there would be no Internet porn. This old mammalian program the Coolidge effect perceives each novel female on a guy's screen as a genetic opportunity. To keep a guy fertilizing the screen his brain releases the "go get it" neurochemical dopamine for each novel made or image. Eventually the ram will tire but as long as the guy can keep clicking he can keep going as so will his dopamine. With internet porn a guy can see more hot babes in 10 minutes than his ancestors could see in several lifetimes. The problem is he has a hunter-gather brain. A heavy user brain rewires itself to this genetic bonanza so it carefully becomes associated with this porn harem. Such behaviours that are associated with this are being alone, voyeurism, clicking, searching, multiple tabs fast-forwarding, constant novelty shock and surprise. As one young guy once asked: Are we the first generation to masturbate left handed? Now, real sex, in contrast, is courtship, touching, being touched, smells, pheromones, emotional connection, interaction with a real person. Now, what happens when our guy finally gets with a real mate. Well, researchers don't know much about the effects of Internet porn for several reasons. In 2009, when Lajeunesse tried to study porn'’s impact he couldn't find any college age males who weren't using it. So the first serious dilemma is that studies have no control groups. Now, this creates a huge blind spot. Imagine if all guys started smoking at age 10 and there were no groups that didn't. We would think that lung cancer is normal for all guys. Undaunted by his lack of non-users Lajeunesse asked 20 male students: Is Internet porn affecting you or your attitude towards women? They answered: "No, I don't think so." But they've been using it for about decade then pretty much non-stop. This is like asking a fish what it thinks about water? Which bring us to a second problem. Researchers haven't asked porn users about the symptoms Zimbardo described in "The Demise of Guys." Arousal addiction symptoms are easily mistaken for a such thing as ADHD, social anxiety, depression, concentration problems, performance anxiety, OCD and a host of others. Now, healthcare providers often assume that these conditions are primary perhaps the cause of addiction but never really the result of an addiction. As a consequence they often medicate these guys without really inquiring about if they have an Internet addiction. Guys never realise that they could overcome these symptoms simply by changing their behaviour. Now, the third problem is it's hard to believe that sexual activity can cause addiction because sex is healthy. But Internet porn is not sex. Internet porn is as different from real sex as today’s video games are from checkers. Watching the screen full of naked body parts won't automatically protect one from arousal addiction. In this Dutch study -- here's the title -- they found that in fact of all activities on the Internet porn has the most potential to become addictive. Here's why. This ancient programme, the reward circuit, evolved to drive us towards natural rewards such as sex, bonding and food. As a consequence extreme versions of natural rewards have a unique ability to capture us. For example: high-calorie foods or hot novel babes give us extra dopamine. Too much dopamine though can override our natural satiation mechanisms. For example: give rats unlimited access to junk food and almost all of them will binge to obesity. This is also why 4 out of 5 Americans are overweight and about half of those are obese. That is addicted to food. Now, in contrast the natural rewards drugs such as cocaine or alcohol only hook about 10% of users whether they are rats or humans. This binge mechanism for food or sex was once an evolutionary advantage. In essence, it is getting it while the getting is good. Now, you can think of wolves packing away 20 pound of meat per kill or it's mating season and you're the alpha male. What if mating season never ends? All those hits of dopamine can tell your brain to do two things. First they say: "Man, you've hit the evolutionary jackpot." Second, they kick in a molecular switched called Delta-FosB. I know it is fancy word, but dopamine kicks in Delta-FosB and that starts to accumulate in the brain's reward circuit. Now, with excess chronic consumption of drugs or natural rewards, this build up a Delta-FosB starts to alter the brain and promote the cycle of binging and craving. If the binging continues the Delta-FosB builds up and it can lead to brain changes seen in all addicts. So the dominos are excess consumption excess dopamine, Delta-FosB, brain changes. One of the first changes is a numbed pleasure response. It kicks in so everyday pleasures really don't satisfy a porn addict. At the same time other physical changes in the brain make the brain hyper-reactive to porn. Everything else in porn users life is sort of boring, but porn is super exciting. Finally his willpower erodes as his frontal cortex changes. I can't emphasize this enough. All addictions share these same brain changes and the same molecular switch that kicks them in -- Delta-FosB. Now scientists have used brain scans to measure these changes in drug addicts. Up-here these scans show a reduced pleasure response in drug addicts. These and several other changes have also been seen in gambling addicts, food addicts, very recently in video game addicts and now in internet addicts. I apologize for filling up the slide with brain studies just notice the dates but I want you to know that they exist. So far all brain research points only in one direction. Constant novelty at the click can cause addiction. We know this because when scientist examined former Internet addicts they found that these brain changes were reversing themselves. Unfortunately, none of these studies isolate porn users, but they do include them. Here's the game changer. A last we have a group of guys who are no longer using Internet porn. That's right! Heavy users are voluntarily giving it up by the thousands. These guys are the missing control group in the great porn experiment. They're showing experts what changing one single variable can do. I called it "The Resurrection of Guys" as opposed to "the Demise of Guys." Now, before I continue probably you wanna know why any porn loving guy in his right mind would give it up. Two words: erectile dysfunction. Internet porn is killing young men's sexual performance. Now, Zimbardo said young guys are flaming out with women, this survey by Italian neurologists confirms what we have witnessed over the last few years. Sexual enhancement drugs often stop working for these guys, if they ever did, because the problem isn’'t below the belt where viagra works. Nor is their problem really psychological. It's due to physical changes in the brain. Those addiction related changes. Their numb brains are sending weaker and weaker signals to their bananas. (Laughter) As doctor Foresta says: "It starts with lower reactions to porn's sites. Then there is a general drop in libido, and in the end it becomes impossible to get an erection. There are 3 take-aways from this. First, Foresta is describing a classic addiction process -- gradual desensitization. Second, Internet porn is qualitatively different from playboy. Widespread youthful ED has never been seen before. And finally ED is often the only symptom that gets these guys' attention. The question is what less symptoms are they missing? Most don't figure that out until after they quit. Here's a guy in his late 20s. "I've been to psychologists and psychiatrists for the last 8 years... have been diagnosed with depression, severe social anxiety, severe memory impairment and a few others. Have tried Fexer, Ritalin, Xanax, Paxil dropped out at two different colleagues, been fired twice, used pot to calm my social anxiety. I've been approached by quite a few women I guess due to my looks and status but they quickly flew away due to my incredible weirdness. I've been a hardcore porn addict since age 14. For the last 2 years I've been experimenting and finally realised that porn was an issue. I stopped it completely 2 months ago. It has been very difficult but so far incredibly worth it. I've since quit my remaining medication. My anxiety is nonexistent. My memory and focus are sharper than they've ever been. I feel like a huge "chick magnet" and my ED is gone too. I seriously think I had a rebirth, a second chance at life." This is why pockets of guys are peering all over the web -- body building sites, sports sites, pickup artists sites -- wherever men congregate. In essence, they are seeking a neurochemical rebirth. Here's a group on who called themselves "Fapstronauts." Fapping is slang for solo sex, but what they really mean is giving up porn. They've added about 2,000 members since I captured this picture a month ago. This movement to unhook from porn is growing rapidly. In fact, groups are springing up all across the web and in Europe too. But there is a bizarre fly in the ointment. Guys in the early 20s aren't regaining their erectile health as quickly as older guys. How can a 50-year-old get his mojo back quicker then a 20-something? The answer, even though older guys have been using porn a whole lot longer they didn't start on today’'s Internet porn. Now, we know this is a key variable because the older guys didn'’t start having sexual problems until after they got high-speed Internet. (Laughter) Now, today'’s young teens start on high-speed Internet when their brains are at their peek of dopamine production and neuroplasticity. This is also when they are the most vulnerable to addiction, but there is another risk. By adulthood teens strengthen heavily used circuits and prune back unused ones. So, by age 22 or so a guy's sexual taste can be like deep roots in his brain. This can cause panic if a guy has escalated to extreme porn or porn that no longer matches his sexual orientation. Fortunately brains are plastic so his taste can revert once he quits porn. As a guy returns to normal sensitivity his brain looks around for the rewards it evolve to see such as friendly interaction and of course real mates. Here's one more example of what we hear everyday: "I feel like the next Sir Isaac Newton or Leonardo da Vinci. Since I quit a month ago, I've literally: started a business, taken up piano, been studying French every day, been programming, drawing, writing, started managing my finances and I have more awesome ideas than I know what to do with. My confidence is sky-high. I already feel like I can talk to any girl! I am the same guy who took 2,5 extra years to graduate from college because of procrastination and depression." I'll conclude with a wish: I'd like to see Zimbardo's guys who are wiping out and their caregivers and the experts listen to the thousands of men who are teaching us about arousal addiction by escaping it. Thanks for listening. (Applause)

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