Porn addiction has gotten a lot of screen time in pop culture (remember Joseph Gordon-Levitt's indie Don Juan?)—but the science surrounding the topic has been murky. The Huffington Post reports that one recent study found that porn addiction, as we understand it, isn't real—that is to say, viewing pornographic material doesn't seem to affect our brain the same way drugs or other addictive substances do.

Neuroscientists at UCLA monitored the brain activity of 122 men and women who were shown a mix of non-sexual and sexual images. (Some of these subjects struggled to control their porn-watching habits; others didn't.) Using EEG technology, the researchers analyzed the late positive potential of the brain, a measure which is said to show "the intensity of an emotional response," according to the study's co-author.

What the team found was that the LPP of these subjects decreased when they were shown sexual images. They previously found that LPP increased in cocaine addicts when shown images of cocaine. 

"The LPP is thought to show increased motivation for the cue of a person's addiction," the study's lead author, Dr. Nicole Prause, told HuffPost in an email. "The fact that this looks the opposite in those who report problems managing their porn viewing habits make it different from every other claimed addiction."

Her team's findings suggest that difficulty controlling an urge to watch porn is different from, say, an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or gambling. Prause believes labeling obsession with smut as an "addiction" can be harmful for those who struggle with it—and could lead them to seek ultimately ineffective treatment.

"Some treatment providers claim to treat sex or porn addiction, but do not actually have any evidence that their treatments are effective," said Prause. "I believe that many patients are paying for very expensive treatments that are unlikely to be helpful—and may be harmful."

"Calling it an 'addiction' may be harming patients," she added, "so we should requite healthcare workers to provide treatments supported by research."

Dr. Prause is also researching brain simulation to permanently reduce men and women's sex drive.

[via HuffPost and Liberos Center]