This Week in Health: Too much porn might affect your brain

Watching excessive porn changes the brain.
Watching excessive amounts of porn might affect men’s brains.
CREDIT: Thinkstock

Too much porn might affect your brain

Location of study: Germany

Study subjects: 64 men

Results: Watching excessive amounts of porn may be linked to brain changes in men. In a recent study, men who said they watched heavy amounts of pornography were found to have decreased brain matter and less brain activity. Researchers used brain scans to examine overall brain structures. They examined brain activity by looking at the way the men’s brains responded to sexually exciting images.

Significance: Researchers say the findings might be taken as evidence that the neural response to sexual stimuli is blunted with more frequent use. But the study was unable to infer the direction of causality. In other words, it has yet to be proven if watching pornography is actually bad for the brain. “It could either be that pornography consumption caused the observed effects, or that the neural effects were the preconditions making a preference for pornography more likely,” said lead author Simone Kühn of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

Many feel less stress at home than at work

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: Over 100 working Americans

Results: Stressed out? Cutting back at work might not be the best remedy. Despite popular belief, new research suggests that being at home might actually be more stressful than being at work. The findings stem from a recent study that measured cortisol levels in both environments. Cortisol (also known as the “stress hormone”) was generally found to be higher while at home.

Significance: “I had thought we might find that stress levels were lower at work because there is a large body of research that finds that people who work have better mental and physical health,” said Sarah Damaske, assistant professor of labor and employment relations, sociology, and women’s studies at Penn State University. “But I was surprised that there was such a strong effect and that we found it across such a wide range.” According to Damaske, the findings held true across gender, marital status, occupation and education. She speculates that the act of focusing on a work task and successfully completing it could be good for you.

Do cell phones affect cognition?

Location of study: London

Study subjects: 2,500 children aged 11 to 12

Results: With more and more children seemingly glued to their mobile devices, it begs the question: does cell phone use have any lasting effects on kids? A new two-year study is aiming to find out. The Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones (SCAMP), which is currently underway, is examining whether mobile phones and other wireless technologies impact children’s cognitive development. Researchers will estimate children’s exposure to radiofrequency fields emitted by cell phones. They will also measure important cognitive functions in development during adolescence.

Significance: Up to this point, the final word on potential health risks associated with cell phone use has been inconclusive. A recent French study was unable to find a definitive link between the two, reported Reuters. According to the report, those who heavily use their cell phones may be at a higher risk for being diagnosed with a brain tumor. But the finding is shrouded with uncertainty. (For example, study data relied on participants filling out questionnaires in which they were asked to recall their cell phone use habits over the last decade.)

Researchers regrow teeth with lasers

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: Rodents

Results: A novel procedure has uncovered a potential new way to treat damaged teeth. Simply grow new ones. Researchers are using low-level lasers to stimulate stem cells that actually regenerate dental tissue. In recent studies, scientists were able to jumpstart human dental stem cells into creating dentin. This hard tissue essentially serves as the foundation of teeth. The breakthrough marks a potential new direction in dentistry.

Significance: In general, the process of regenerating stem cells isn’t so simple. According to the team of Harvard investigators who led the research, it typically involves isolating cells, working on them in a lab and then getting them back into the body. “I think the big novelty is connecting the dots here in our ability to use a noninvasive tool and perform clinical therapy driving stem cell differentiation,” said lead author Praveen Arany, dentist and researcher with the National Institutes of Health.

Content provided by ZipTrials, a trusted source for the most up-to-date medical news and trending health stories.



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