Did you know that your brain learns by copying? In your mind it actually puts you in situations, like you are doing them, when you are only watching them. So for instance, if you are watching a person pickup and eat an apple, your brain lights up in the same way as if you were actually picking up and eating that apple. Essentially your brain makes you feel like you are the one eating it. According to some research, this is all done through things called mirror neurons, tiny receptors in your gray matter that are very good at copying.

So if you’re watching someone eat an ice cream, ride a bike, play a video game, kiss, your brain puts you in those situations, like you’re physically there, and the parts of the brain that light up when you actually do those activities, light up just when you are watching it. Pretty cool huh? As to why the brain does this or if it’s even true, the jury is out. Some researchers say that these mirror neurons are important to help us learn, some say they help us understand people’s actions and thoughts by putting us in those situations, some say they don’t exist at all, while some others say that they help us form emotions and empathy.

When it comes to watching porn things get very interesting. According to experts, it’s then that mirror neurons can go into overload. Instead of making us think about sex, they cause us to think that we are actually having the sex that we are watching. The “I’m having sex with that person right now” part of our brain lights up. Our brain thinks we are in there doing the deed, our body gets highly aroused to that response and the mirror neuron system triggers arousal, which leads to sexual tension and the need for release.

As viewers, no longer are we just responding to the nakedness of what we’re seeing, we are placing ourselves right in to that scene, into that position, doing those deeds, virtually feeling what is going on. This fuels even more arousal and even more need for release, helping to drive the need for more to keep the arousal and excitement going. Pretty crazy stuff that might explain why porn users get so excited by seeing someone else have sex.

On top of all of this, watching porn and the release that generally follows, has huge impacts on the brain. Chemicals are released that lead to hormonal and neurological reactions, which are designed to bind a person to the object they are focusing on, in this case the virtual partner “mirrored” in the porn. The highly powerful neurotransmitter Dopamine, surges when we are exposed to something novel, particularly if it is sexual. It drives us to seek out more pleasure, to make us feel good. And because porn can trigger more dopamine than sex with a regular partner, constant exposure to it can lead to “arousal addiction,” teaching the brain to prefer the image on the screen and become less satisfied with any “non mirrored,” real-life sexual partners.

So if we believe what some of the researchers are suggesting, what does that mean for porn and watching it? When we watch certain acts, and we “mirror” ourselves into those situations, we need to think about what that’s doing to our brains? Do we really want to feel bonded to those people on the screen? Do we really want to spend countless hours seeking new videos and pictures to keep our arousal high? Or is there more value in not watching and hanging out with friends, or spending time with our loved ones, or going out to dinner with our partner. Would time be better spent wooing our lover for real, or dare we say it, having “non mirrored,” real life sex with someone who cares about us and loves us.

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