Monthly Archives: December 2011

Your brain on porn part 3

Frontal Lobe Damage

As a feedback of sorts, the frontal lobes also atrophy, or shrink. Think of it as a “wearing out of the brake pads.” This physical and functional decline in the judgment center of the brain causes the person to become impaired in his ability to process the consequences of acting out in addiction. Addiction scientists have called this condition hypofrontality, and have noted a similarity in the behavior of addicted persons to the behavior of patients with frontal brain damage.

Neurosurgeons frequently treat people with frontal lobe damage. In a car crash, for instance, the driver’s brain will often decelerate into the back of his forehead inside his skull, bruising the frontal lobes. Patients with frontal lobe damage exhibit a constellation of behaviors we call frontal lobe syndrome. First, these patients are impulsive, in that they thoughtlessly engage in activities with little regard to the consequences. Second, they are compulsive; they become fixated or focused on certain objects or behaviors, and have to have them, no matter what. Third, they become emotionally labile, and have sudden and unpredictable mood swings. Fourth, they exhibit impaired judgment.

So cortical hypofrontality, or shrinkage of the frontal lobes, causes these four behaviors, and they can result from a car wreck or from addiction.

A study on cocaine addiction published in 2002 shows volume loss, or shrinkage, in several areas of the brain, particularly the frontal control areas. A study from 2004 shows very similar results for methamphetamine. But we expect drugs to damage the brain, so these studies don’t really surprise us.

Consider, though, a natural addiction, such as overeating leading to obesity. You might be surprised to learn that a study published in 2006 showed shrinkage in the frontal lobes in obesity very similar to that found in the cocaine and methamphetamine studies. And a study published in 2007 of persons exhibiting severe sexual addiction produced almost identical results to the cocaine, methamphetamine, and obesity studies. (Encouragingly, two studies, one on drug addiction [methamphetamine] and one on natural addiction [obesity] also show a return to more normal frontal lobe volumes with time in recovery.)

So we have four studies, two drug and two natural addiction studies, all done in different academic institutions by different research teams, and published over a five-year period in four different peer-reviewed scientific journals. And all four studies show that addictions physically affect the frontal lobes of the brain.

Addiction Is Addiction

I mentioned that the dopamine systems don’t work well in addiction, that they become damaged. This damage, as well as frontal lobe damage, can be shown with brain scans, such as functional MRI, PET, and SPECT scans. Recent brain scan studies have not only shown abnormalities in cases of cocaine addiction, but also in cases of pathologic gambling and overeating leading to obesity.

So non-biased science is telling us that addiction is present when there is continued destructive behavior in spite of adverse consequences. As stated in the journal Science, “as far as the brain is concerned, a reward’s a reward, regardless of whether it comes from a chemical or an experience.”

What about pornography and sexual addiction? Dr. Eric Nestler, head of neuroscience research at Mount Cedar Sinai in New York and one of the most respected addiction scientists in the world, published a paper in the journal Nature Neuroscience in 2005 titled “Is there a common pathway for addiction?” In this paper he said that the dopamine reward systems mediate not only drug addiction, but also “natural addictions (that is, compulsive consumption of natural rewards) such as pathological overeating, pathological gambling, and sexual addictions.”

The prestigious Royal Society of London, founded in the 1660s, publishes the longest-running scientific journal in the world, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. A recent issue devoted 17 articles to the current understanding of addiction. Interestingly, two of the articles were specifically concerned with natural addiction, pathologic gambling and overeating.

Frantic Learning

Drs. Robert Malenka and Julie Kauer, in a landmark paper in Nature in 2007 on mechanisms of the physical and chemical changes that occur in the brain cells of addicted individuals, said, “Addiction represents a pathological, yet powerful form of learning and memory.” We now call these changes in brain cells “long term potentiation” and “long term depression,” and speak of the brain as being plastic, or subject to change and re-wiring.

Dr. Norman Doidge, a neurologist at Columbia, in his book The Brain That Changes Itself, describes how pornography causes re-wiring of the neural circuits. He notes that in a study of men viewing internet pornography, the men looked “uncannily” like rats pushing the lever to receive cocaine in the experimental Skinner boxes. Like the addicted rats, the men were desperately seeking the next fix, clicking the mouse just as the rats pushed the lever.

Pornography addiction is frantic learning, and perhaps this is why many who have struggled with multiple addictions report that it was the hardest for them to overcome. Drug addictions, while powerful, are more passive in a “thinking” kind of way, whereas pornography viewing, especially on the internet, is a much more active process neurologically. The constant searching for and evaluating of each image or video clip for its potency and effect is an exercise in neuronal learning, limited only by the progressively rewired brain. Curiosities are thus fused into compulsions, and the need for a larger dopamine fix can drive the person from soft-core to hard-core to child pornography—and worse. A paper published in the Journal of Family Violence in 2009 revealed that 85 percent of men arrested for child pornography had also physically abused children.

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Your brain on porn part 2

This is continued from your brain on porn part 1.

Adrenaline Grass

First, I would like to share an experience our family had a few years ago on a safari in Africa. While on a game drive along the Zambezi River, our ranger commented on the adrenaline grass growing along the banks. I asked him why he used the word “adrenaline,” and he began to drive slowly through the grass. Abruptly, he stopped the vehicle and said, “There! Do you see it?”

“See what?” I asked. He drove closer, and this also changed the angle of the light.

Then I understood. A lion was hiding in the grass watching the river, just waiting for some “fast food” to come and get a drink.

We were sitting in an open-air Land Rover with no doors and no windows. I then understood why it was called adrenaline grass, as I felt my heart pound. My cerebral cortex saw and defined the danger, which registered in the autonomic, or automatic, part of my nervous system. The brain, which is a very efficient pharmaceutical lab, produced the chemical adrenaline, causing my heart to pound and race in preparation for survival. I was ready to run if needed (not that it would have done any good with the lion).

We were told that if we stayed in our seats and remained still, the lion would look at the Land Rover as a whole and not see us as individuals. Fortunately this was the case for us.

A Drug Is a Drug

Interestingly, adrenaline, also called epinephrine, is a drug we physicians use in surgery and in emergencies to start a patient’s heart again when it beats too slow, or even stops. So here is the question: Is epinephrine not a drug if the brain makes it (causing the heart to pound and race), yet is a drug if the same epinephrine is given by a physician?

Or consider dopamine. This chemical is a close cousin to epinephrine, both of which are excitatory neurotransmitters that tell the brain to Go! Dopamine is important in the parts of our brain that allow us to move, and when the dopamine-producing parts of the brain are damaged, Parkinson’s disease results. To treat Parkinson’s, physicians prescribe dopamine as a drug, and it helps the patient move again. So is dopamine a drug only if the pharmaceutical lab makes it, and not if the brain makes the same chemical for the same purpose?

Of course, both are drugs in every sense of the word, regardless of where they are produced. Pertinent to our subject, it happens that both of these brain drugs are very important in human sexuality—and in pornography and sexual addiction. Dopamine, in addition to its role in movement, is an integral neurotransmitter, or brain drug, in the pleasure/reward system in the brain.

Disruption of Dopamine

Let’s review some of the important components of the reward system of the brain. On the outside is the cerebral cortex, a layer of nerve cells that carry conscious, volitional thought. In the front, over the eyes, are the frontal lobes. These areas are important in judgment, and, if the brain were a car, the frontal lobes would be the brakes. These lobes have important connections to the pleasure pathways, so pleasure can be controlled.

In the center of the brain is the nucleus accumbens. This almond-sized area is a key pleasure reward center, and when activated by dopamine and other neurotransmitters, it causes us to value and desire pleasure rewards. Dopamine is essential for humans to desire and value appropriate pleasure in life. Without it, we would not be as incentivized to eat, procreate, or even to try to win a game.

It’s the overuse of the dopamine reward system that causes addiction. When the pathways are used compulsively, a downgrading occurs that actually decreases the amount of dopamine in the pleasure areas available for use, and the dopamine cells themselves start to atrophy, or shrink. The reward cells in the nucleus accumbens are now starved for dopamine and exist in a state of dopamine craving, as a downgrading of dopamine receptors on the pleasure cells occurs as well. This resetting of the “pleasure thermostat” produces a “new normal.” In this addictive state, the person must act out in addiction to boost the dopamine to levels sufficient just to feel normal.

As the desensitization of the reward circuits continues, stronger and stronger stimuli are required to boost the dopamine. In the case of narcotic addiction, the addicted person must increase the amount of the drug to get the same high. In pornography addiction, progressively more shocking images are required to stimulate the person.

Your Brain on Porn Part 1

Pornography has been something that I have done some study on during my 4 years at Briercrest as I sought to gain knowledge on the subject to help my brothers and sisters in Christ with this struggle. I’ve read books, wrote papers, and have gone to seminars on the subject and am still learning more about the awful affects it has on our lives spiritually, physically, emotionally, and so forth. It hurts us on so many levels and is one of the darkest activities out in our world today (even though on the surface it may seem harmless). I read this article on the affects porn has on our brain and emotions and found it super helpful! It is a very long article and since I know that most people lose interest in reading anything these days I will break it into smaller chunks to take in! Enjoy!

Slave Master

How Pornography Drugs & Changes Your Brain

by Donald L. Hilton, Jr.

While some have avoided using the term “addiction” in the context of natural compulsions such as uncontrolled sexuality, overeating, or gambling, let us consider current scientific evidence regarding the brain and addiction.

This article will seek to answer two questions: (1) Biologically, is the brain affected by pornography and other sexual addictions? (2) If so, and if such addictions are widespread, can they have a societal effect as well?

The Story of the Gypsy Moth

Let’s begin with a seeming digression. In 1869 the gypsy moth was brought to America to attempt to jumpstart a silk industry. Rarely have good intentions gone so wrong, as the unforeseen appetite of the moth for deciduous trees such as oaks, maples, and elms has devastated forests for 150 years. Numerous attempts were made to destroy this pest, but a major breakthrough came in the 1960s, when scientists noted that the male gypsy moth finds a female to mate with by following her scent. This scent is called a pheromone, and is extremely attractive to the male.

In 1971 a paper was published in the journal Nature that described how pheromones were used to prevent the moths from mating. The scientists mass-produced the pheromone and permeated the moths’ environment with it. This unnaturally strong scent overpowered the females’ normal ability to attract the male, and the confused males were unable to find females. A follow-up paper described how population control of the moths was achieved by “preventing male gypsy moths from finding mates.”

The gypsy moth was the first insect to be controlled by the use of pheromones, which work by two methods. One is called the confusion method. An airplane scatters an environmentally insignificant number of very small plastic pellets imbedded with the scent of the pheromone. Then, as science journalist Anna Salleh describes it, “The male either becomes confused and doesn’t know which direction to turn for the female, or he becomes desensitized to the lower levels of pheromones naturally given out by the female and has no incentive to mate with her.”

The other method is called the trapping method: Pheromone-infused traps are set, from which moths cannot escape; a male moth enters looking for a female, only to find a fatal substitute.

Two Fallacies

What does this have to do with pornography? Pornography is a visual pheromone, a powerful, $100 billion per year brain drug that is changing human sexuality by “inhibiting orientation” and “disrupting pre-mating communication between the sexes by permeating the atmosphere,” especially through the internet. I believe we are currently struggling in the war against pornography because many continue to believe two key fallacies:

Fallacy No. 1: Pornography is not a drug.

Fallacy No. 2: Pornography is therefore not a real addiction.

As an illustration of Fallacy No. 1, consider the following statement by a Wall Street executive whose mainstream company discreetly profits from pornography: “I’m not a weirdo or a pervert, it’s not my deal. I’ve got kids and a family. But if I can see as an underwriter going out and making bucks on people being weird, hey, dollars are dollars. I’m not selling drugs. It’s Wall Street.”

Now consider both fallacies as elucidated in the following statement by an executive in the pornography industry:

[T]he fact [is] that “drugs, booze and cigarettes” are all physical, chemical agents that are ingested and can indeed have measurable, harmful, addictive effects. The mere viewing of any type of subject matter hardly falls into this category and, in fact, belittles the very real battles that addicts face over drugs, booze and cigarettes—all of which can be lethal. No one ever died from looking at porn. While some compulsive types can be “addicted” to anything, such as watching a favorite television show, eating ice cream or going to the gym, nobody suggests that ice cream is akin to crack cocaine [remember that statement] and should be regulated to protect . . . people from themselves—instead, these compulsive actions are rightfully viewed by society as personality defects in the individual. . . .

Here I will review some of the science he refers to, and also discuss whether pornography is a “physical, chemical” agent, i.e., “a drug,” and also consider the latest research on natural brain rewards in deciding whether it is a true brain addiction.

Original article can be found at http://www.salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo13/13hilton.php

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A thought for the day

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

The need for God is great. There is no one who is alive or who has ever lived that does not need God. We have all failed so to speak. This is something that we do not like to focus on. I feel a lot of the time we are quick to speak of how great we are, how talented we are, and how independent we are. In order for us to have a proper understanding of God we need to understand how desperate we are for God and how frail we truly are. We have ALL gone astray, EVERYONE!

You need God.

The best part is that God wants you!

How amazing is that?

-benjamin jepsen

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A Year of Memories

Well It’s been a year since I started this new blog and six years since I started blogging altogether!

What has been gained in a year of this blog? Well I really have no idea. For myself it gives me a great opportunity to exercise a hobby of mine. For others I suppose it helps people keep up with me and my life which isn’t all that fascinating to read about really ha! I suppose I would hope that through some posts it brings people encouragement and maybe even hope through the work of God.

I have to say that once again I am looking forward to the new year! I’ll be starting the new year with my lovely fiance Shayna in Ontario visiting her family and friends who are all super great! And then from there we will be looking ahead to our wedding. Yes I think 2012 will be unlike any year I have experienced and will be one of the best years of my life! I can’t wait.

If your one of the few people who read this blog thanks for checking it out from time to time. It’s great to see on my site stats that I get about 10 people a day checking out the blog! ha! Have a great end of 2011! 😉 Looking forward to writing here for another year!

-benjamin jepsen

Merry Christmas

Jesus Christ is born. This is the most important truth you will ever choose to accept or reject.

-Benjamin Jepsen, saved by Christ

Merry Christmas!

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A word about life

For unto us a child is born. We celebrate the life of Jesus tomorrow! I cannot wait to see him in heaven one day!

-benjamin jepsen

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A word about death

I know it seems wrong to be talking about death around Christmas but I thought it would be good while it’s still fresh in my mind!

This week there was a celebration service at the church I work at for a man by the name of Jacob Bekker. As I sat and listened to the words that were spoken of this man of God I realized once again that life is short and fleeting. You will almost never hear anything bad about a man at a funeral and that’s fine, what struck me at this service was what was said about this man before he died.

I believe that is where the real test is. What do people say about you before you die!? I didn’t know Jake super well but before he was even close to death you would hear people say things about his peace, patience, work in the community, and his love for God. Wow. What a great list of attributes!

Often when I talk to people I hear them say things about people in way that lifts them up with a bit of negativity thrown in. “he is a great guy but…” is something I hear almost all the time when I am having a conversation about an individual.

What would it look like if we lived lives that gives no opportunity for people to add that “but…” I believe Jake was one of those men.

I would strive to follow Jakes example and impact the community I am apart of while I’m alive so that the ripples of my life are still seen when I die. This is what Jake has done and he has set the bar for the rest of us.

Live life so that you make an impact now. Enjoy life now. Don’t give people a reason to speak poorly of you. And when you leave this world your impact will have return for future generations.

-bejamin jepsen

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Darth Vader Christmas

Last night I had a dream I was Darth Vader, it was the coolest!

-benjamin jepsen

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The Best and Worst of Christmas pop culture

Here are a few things that make Christmas funny and enjoyable…and a few things that make Christmas less exciting!

Best-Christmas song by SNL

This isn’t the original but it’s still funny! Especially Tracy Morgan dancing!

Best-The movie Elf comes out in 2003 starring Will Ferrel and Zooey Deschanel and becomes one of the funniest Christmas movies ever!

Best-In 1994 Tim Allen puts out the enjoyable Christmas comedy “The Santa Clause”

Best-in 1990 and 1992 Macaulay Culkin stars in the only good movies he has ever been in! Home Alone 1 & 2

Best-Christmas in the stars. This is an album that stars R2-D2 and C3p0 and is a story about the droids celebrating Christmas! What a gem!

Worst-Rosie O’Donnell puts out a Christmas album…with elmo

Worst-Tim Allen follows up on Christmas movies by putting out Christmas with the Kranks, The Santa Clause 2, and The Santa Clause 3

Worst-The Home alone series continues with not one but two more films…not starring Macaulay Culkin. What a train wreck

Worst-David Hasselhoff puts out a Christmas album

So throughout my searching and thinking of the best and worst it appears that overall pop culture does a pretty good job when it comes to Christmas. Let me know what you think some of the best and worst are that I missed…cause there are plenty!

-benjamin jepsen

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