Vaughan Bell comes through with a steady-handed (Beavis!!) take-down of Naomi Wolf’s neuro-hyped story about porn and the brain.  Wolf wrote:

Since then, a great deal of data on the brain’s reward system has accumulated to explain this rewiring more concretely. We now know that porn delivers rewards to the male brain in the form of a short-term dopamine boost, which, for an hour or two afterwards, lifts men’s mood and makes them feel good in general. The neural circuitry is identical to that for other addictive triggers, such as gambling or cocaine.

And here’s Vaughan:

But the reward is not the dopamine. Dopamine is a neurochemical used for various types of signalling, none of which match the over-simplified version described in the article, that allow us to predict and detect rewards better in the future.

One of its most important functions is reward prediction where midbrain dopamine neurons fire when a big reward is expected even when it doesn’t occur – such as in a near-miss money-loss when gambling – a very unpleasant experience.

But what counts as a reward in Wolf’s dopamine system stereotype? Whatever makes the dopamine system fire. This is a hugely circular explanation and it doesn’t account for the huge variation in what we find rewarding and what turns us on.

This is especially important in sex because people are turned on by different things. Blondes, brunettes, men, women, transsexuals, feet, being spanked by women dressed as nuns (that list is just off the top of my head you understand).

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