Just a head’s up – this post talks about the ways porn changes your brain. It also talks about the way scripture and prayer changes your brain. Basically how you live, your choices, your experiences, your habits…etc. are all changing your brain and affecting who you are becoming. I hope you’re paying attention.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12: 2
God changes your brain.
I remember first reading about this idea several years ago in a book by Mark Batterson. There has been tons of great research on neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to change – and I was fascinated when Mark suggested that by reading scripture we are physically rewiring our brain with the thoughts of God. He even suggested that this could be a very real way that Romans 12:2 is played out in our lives – reading Scripture and sending those messages through our brains is physically rewiring them and therefore “renewing our minds”. Since then, I’ve seen this play out in my life as I noticed my negative or debilitating thought patterns and habits and sought to fight them with truth from Scripture. God changes your brain.
Pornography changes your brain.
In my work with students, I’ve also noticed the prevalence of consistent pornography usage among teens. They don’t know it, but this consistent viewing is changing their brains. Follow this natural progression: When a student is bored or lonely (both experiences are heightened for today’s teenagers in our social media/comparison world) they are longing for connection. Pornography is easy to access and offers a false, but temporarily satisfying, sense of connection. They view it and dopamine rushes through the brain. They repeat the pattern and eventually the brain has been hardwired to seek pornography when the student feels bored or lonely. Their first thought/instinct when they are bored or lonely will be to look at porn. Pornography changes your brain.
There is a lot to say on both of these topics, but I would invite you to read these two articles. They are simple, but give some great food for thought.
Both of these articles talk about activities that change your brain. Both of these things have the power to change us fundamentally. Both of these things are easy for you to access at this moment. Both are easy for you son or daughter to access at this moment.
Parents, these could be great conversation starters for your child. It could be interesting to read them both to them and ask them what they think. Ask them if they knew porn had such negative effects. Ask them if they are surprised that our brains respond to God in this way.
(you can see more about the effects of porn on your brain, heart, and society over at fightthenewdrug.org )
So, here’s the articles…
Seriously, read them…they’re short. But in case you really don’t have the time…here are a few highlights:
Quick Synopsis: Neurons that fire together, wire together. Just like other addictive substances, porn floods the brain with dopamine. That rush of brain chemicals happening over and over again rewires the brain’s reward pathway ultimately changing the make up of the viewer’s brain. This can result in an increased appetite for porn.
Yep, you read that right. Porn physically changes your brain.
A neuron is a brain cell, and when brain cells get activated at the same time by something you see or hear or smell or whatever, they release chemicals that help strengthen the connection between those neurons.  For example, when you eat something delicious, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel good.  Or if you hold hands with someone you care about, your brain releases a chemical called oxytocin, which helps you bond with people. 
Just like other addictive substances, porn floods the brain with dopamine.  But since the brain gets overwhelmed by the constant overload of chemicals that comes with consistent porn use, it fights back by taking away some of its dopamine receptors —which are like tiny ears on the end of a neuron that hear dopamine’s message.
With fewer receptors, even if the brain is putting off the same levels of dopamine in response to porn, the user can’t feel dopamine’s effect as much.  As a result, the porn they were looking at doesn’t seem as arousing or exciting, and many porn users go hunting for more porn or more hardcore porn to get the effect the old porn used to offer. 
And here’s the really scary part: the more porn a person looks at, the more severe the damage to their brain becomes and the more difficult it is to break free.  But there’s good news too: neuroplasticity works both ways. That means that the damage to the brain can be undone when someone gets away from unhealthy behaviors.
Scientists have been looking for a spot in the brain that corresponds with God. After all, there’s a place in your brain responsible for vision, language, memory and anger. Couldn’t there be a neurological God spot?
Our insights into how the brain works have gotten much more sophisticated in the last decade thanks to the emergence of new tools to image living brains. We have machines now that let us watch living brains in three dimensions without surgery or autopsy. This technology allows brain scientists to study believers as they pray, meditate, worship and experience God.
This research shows that there is no God spot. God doesn’t simply move into a spot in our brains—God redecorates. Believers have a complex, rich network in their brains for God. For the devout, God is not just an idea, but a tapestry of feelings and experiences. This network affects how our brains work at fundamental levels.
People who regularly focus on God’s love through prayer and meditation change. They experience less stress, and they even experience a reduction in blood pressure. Their prefrontal cortex, the part of their brain associated with focus and attention, becomes more active over time, helping them avoid distraction and be more intentional.
They also have more activity in their anterior cingulate cortex. That’s the part of our brain associated with love, compassion and empathy. Focusing on God’s love makes us more loving and less angry. It’s easier for us to forgive ourselves and others.
Science tells us that there is tremendous power in prayer. God will be most active and transforming in your brain if you pray for 30 minutes per day, at least four days per week. If you’ve ever wondered how to be closer to God, or why your walk with God is difficult, science says the answer is prayer.
Are our brains wired for God? Not only does science support the idea, but it also shows us that belief in God and an active prayer life can make us healthier, happier people who do good in the world.