Pathological gambling (PG) is a form of behavioural addiction that has been associated with elevated impulsivity and also cognitive distortions in the processing of chance, probability and skill. We sought to assess the relationship between the level of cognitive distortions and state and trait measures of impulsivity in treatment-seeking pathological gamblers.
Thirty pathological gamblers attending the National Problem Gambling Clinic, the first National Health Service clinic for gambling problems in the UK, were compared with 30 healthy controls in a case-control design. Cognitive distortions were assessed using the Gambling-Related Cognitions Scale (GRCS). Trait impulsivity was assessed using the UPPS-P, which includes scales of urgency, the tendency to be impulsive in positive or negative mood states. Delay discounting rates were taken as a state measure of impulsive choice.
Pathological gamblers had elevated impulsivity on several UPPS-P subscales but effect sizes were largest (Cohen's d>1.4) for positive and negative urgency. The pathological gamblers also displayed higher levels of gambling distortions, and elevated preference for immediate rewards, compared to controls. Within the pathological gamblers, there was a strong relationship between the preference for immediate rewards and the level of cognitive distortions (R2=0.41).
Impulsive choice in the gamblers was correlated with the level of gambling distortions, and we hypothesize that an impulsive decision-making style may increase the acceptance of erroneous beliefs during gambling play.
Behavioural addiction; decision making; delay discounting; problem gambling; risk taking
Problem gambling has been proposed to represent a ‘behavioural addiction’ that may provide key insights into vulnerability mechanisms underlying addiction in brains that are not affected by the damaging effects of drugs. Our aim was to investigate the neurocognitive profile of problem gambling in comparison with alcohol dependence. We reasoned that shared deficits across the two conditions may reflect underlying vulnerability mechanisms, whereas impairments specific to alcohol dependence may reflect cumulative effects of alcohol consumption.
Out-patient addiction treatment centres and university behavioural testing facilities.
A naturalistic sample of 21 male problem and pathological gamblers, 21 male alcohol-dependent out-patients and 21 healthy male control participants.
Neurocognitive battery assessing decision-making, impulsivity and working memory.
The problem gamblers and alcohol-dependent groups displayed impairments in risky decision-making and cognitive impulsivity relative to controls. Working memory deficits and slowed deliberation times were specific to the alcohol-dependent group.
Gambling and alcohol-dependent groups shared deficits in tasks linked to ventral prefrontal cortical dysfunction. Tasks loading on dorsolateral prefrontal cortex were selectively impaired in the alcohol-dependent group, presumably as a consequence of long-term alcohol use.
Addiction; alcohol; decision-making; impulsivity; pathological gambling; prefrontal cortex; risk-taking; vulnerability
It has been theorized that there may be subtypes of pathological gambling, particularly in relation to the main type of gambling activities undertaken. Whether or not putative pathological gambling subtypes differ in terms of their clinical and cognitive profiles has received little attention.
Subjects meeting DSM-IV criteria for pathological gambling were grouped into two categories of preferred forms of gambling – strategic (e.g., cards, dice, sports betting, stock market) and non-strategic (e.g., slots, video poker, pull tabs). Groups were compared on clinical characteristics (gambling severity, and time and money spent gambling), psychiatric comorbidity, and neurocognitive tests assessing motor impulsivity and cognitive flexibility.
Seventy-seven subjects were included in this sample (45.5% females; mean age: 42.7±14.9) which consisted of the following groups: strategic (n=22; 28.6%) and non-strategic (n=55; 71.4%). Non-strategic gamblers were significantly more likely to be older, female, and divorced. Money spent gambling did not differ significantly between groups although one measure of gambling severity reflected more severe problems for strategic gamblers. Strategic and non-strategic gamblers did not differ in terms of cognitive function; both groups showed impairments in cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control relative to matched healthy volunteers.
These preliminary results suggest that preferred form of gambling may be associated with specific clinical characteristics but are not associated dissociable in terms of cognitive inflexibility and motor impulsivity.
cognition; impulsivity; gambling
Despite reasonable knowledge of pathological gambling (PG), little is known of its cognitive antecedents. We evaluated decision-making and impulsivity characteristics in people at risk of developing PG using neuropsychological tests. Non-treatment seeking volunteers (18-29 years) who gamble ≥5 times/year were recruited from the general community, and split into two groups: those “at risk” of developing PG (n=74) and those social, non-problem gamblers (n=112). Participants undertook the Cambridge Gamble and Stop-signal tasks and were assessed with the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview and the Yale Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale Modified for Pathological Gambling. On the Cambridge Gamble task, the at- risk subjects gambled more points overall, were more likely to go bankrupt, and made more irrational decisions under situations of relative risk ambiguity. On the Stop-signal task, at- risk gamblers did not differ from the social, non-problem gamblers in terms of motor impulse control (stop-signal reaction times). Findings suggest that selective cognitive dysfunction may already be present in terms of decision-making in at-risk gamblers, even before psychopathology arises. These findings implicate selective decision-making deficits and dysfunction of orbitofronto-limbic circuitry in the chain of pathogenesis between social, non-problematic and pathological gambling.
Pathological Gambling; Pathogenesis; Addiction; Cognitive Dysfunction; Cognition; Inhibition
Neurodegenerative patients show often severe everyday decision making problems. Currently it is however not clear which brain atrophy regions are implicated in such decision making problems. We investigated the atrophy correlates of gambling decision making in a sample of 63 participants, including two neurodegenerative conditions (behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia — bvFTD; Alzheimer's disease — AD) as well as healthy age-matched controls. All participants were tested on the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) and the behavioural IGT results were covaried against the T1 MRI scans of all participants to identify brain atrophy regions implicated in gambling decision making deficits. Our results showed a large variability in IGT performance for all groups with both patient groups performing especially poor on the task. Importantly, bvFTD and AD groups did not differ significantly on the behavioural performance of the IGT. However, by contrast, the atrophy gambling decision making correlates differed between bvFTD and AD, with bvFTD showing more frontal atrophy and AD showing more parietal and temporal atrophy being implicated in decision making deficits, indicating that both patient groups fail the task on different levels. Frontal (frontopolar, anterior cingulate) and parietal (retrosplenial) cortex atrophy covaried with poor performance on the IGT. Taken together, the atrophy correlates of gambling decision making show that such deficits can occur due to a failure of different neural structures, which will inform future diagnostics and treatment options to alleviate these severe everyday problems in neurodegenerative patients.
► bvFTD and AD patients are both impaired in gambling decision making. ► However, atrophy correlates for gambling decision making differ between groups. ► Poor performance in decision making covaried with frontal atrophy in bvFTD. ► Poor performance in decision making covaried with parietal/temporal atrophy in AD. ► Gambling decision deficits can occur due to atrophy in different brain regions.
Behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia; Alzheimer's disease; Voxel-based morphometry; Gambling decision making; Iowa Gambling Task
Huntington’s disease (HD) is a genetic, neurodegenerative disorder, which specifically affects striatal neurons of the indirect pathway, resulting in a progressive decline in muscle coordination and loss of emotional and cognitive control. Interestingly, predisposition to pathological gambling and other addictions involves disturbances in the same cortico-striatal circuits that are affected in HD, and display similar disinhibition-related symptoms, including changed sensitivity to punishments and rewards, impulsivity, and inability to consider long-term advantages over short-term rewards. Both HD patients and pathological gamblers also show similar performance deficits on risky decision-making tasks, such as the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). These similarities suggest that HD patients are a likely risk group for gambling problems. However, such problems have only incidentally been observed in HD patients. In this review, we aim to characterize the risk of pathological gambling in HD, as well as the underlying neurobiological mechanisms. Especially with the current rise of easily accessible Internet gambling opportunities, it is important to understand these risks and provide appropriate patient support accordingly. Based on neuropathological and behavioral findings, we propose that HD patients may not have an increased tendency to seek risks and start gambling, but that they do have an increased chance of developing an addiction once they engage in gambling activities. Therefore, current and future developments of Internet gambling possibilities and related addictions should be regarded with care, especially for vulnerable groups like HD patients.
Huntington’s disease; risk-taking; gambling; prefrontal cortex; basal ganglia; disinhibtion
Although poor decision-making is a hallmark of psychiatric conditions such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, pathological gambling or substance abuse, a fraction of healthy individuals exhibit similar poor decision-making performances in everyday life and specific laboratory tasks such as the Iowa Gambling Task. These particular individuals may provide information on risk factors or common endophenotypes of these mental disorders. In a rodent version of the Iowa gambling task – the Rat Gambling Task (RGT), we identified a population of poor decision makers, and assessed how these rats scored for several behavioral traits relevant to executive disorders: risk taking, reward seeking, behavioral inflexibility, and several aspects of impulsivity. First, we found that poor decision-making could not be well predicted by single behavioral and cognitive characteristics when considered separately. By contrast, a combination of independent traits in the same individual, namely risk taking, reward seeking, behavioral inflexibility, as well as motor impulsivity, was highly predictive of poor decision-making. Second, using a reinforcement-learning model of the RGT, we confirmed that only the combination of extreme scores on these traits could induce maladaptive decision-making. Third, the model suggested that a combination of these behavioral traits results in an inaccurate representation of rewards and penalties and inefficient learning of the environment. Poor decision-making appears as a consequence of the over-valuation of high-reward-high-risk options in the task. Such a specific psychological profile could greatly impair clinically healthy individuals in decision-making tasks and may predispose to mental disorders with similar symptoms.
Building on the recent emerging literature on the impulsivity trajectory-gambling association, this study investigated the association between developmental trajectories of teacher-rated impulsivity in early adolescence (ages 11–15) and subsequent gambling and gambling problems (i.e. at-risk and problem gambling) by age 19.
Prospective cohort design.
Urban communities in Baltimore, Maryland.
The sample consists of 310 predominately minority (87%) and low SES (70%) males followed from first grade to late adolescence.
Impulsivity was measured using teacher ratings of classroom behavior. Self-reported gambling behavior was assessed using the South Oaks Gambling Screen-Revised for Adolescents (SOGS-RA).
Results from a conventional growth model suggest the intercept of the impulsivity development (as measured by the repeated assessments of impulsivity across the entire developmental period) was significantly associated with gambling. Results from a general growth mixture model evidenced two distinct trajectories: a high impulsivity trajectory (41% the sample) and a low impulsivity trajectory (59% of the sample). Despite its non-significant association with any gambling, heterogeneity in impulsivity development was significantly associated with gambling problems. Specifically, being in the high impulsivity trajectory doubled the odds of meeting criteria for at-risk or problem gambling (OR= 2.09[1.02, 4.27]) and tripled the odds of meeting criteria for problem gambling (OR=2.84[1.02, 7.91])
Development in impulsivity is strongly associated with problem/at-risk gambling in adolescence among urban male youth. Findings highlight the importance of distinguishing gambling problems from any gambling when evaluating programs aimed at reducing youth gambling problems through reducing impulsivity.
Impulsivity; Gambling; Problem gambling; Convention growth model; General growth mixture model
To investigate which clusters of gambling activities exist within a longitudinal study of college health, how membership in gambling clusters change over time and whether particular clusters of gambling are associated with unhealthy risk behaviour.
Four-year longitudinal study (2002–2006).
Large, public university.
Undergraduate college students.
Ten common gambling activities were measured during 4 consecutive college years (years 1–4). Clusters of gambling activities were examined using latent class analyses. Relations between gambling clusters and gender, Greek membership, alcohol use, drug use, personality indicators of behavioural undercontrol and psychological distress were examined.
Four latent gambling classes were identified: (1) a low-gambling class, (2) a card gambling class, (3) a casino/slots gambling class and (4) an extensive gambling class. Over the first college years a high probability of transitioning from the low-gambling class and the card gambling class into the casino/slots gambling class was present. Membership in the card, casino/slots and extensive gambling classes were associated with higher scores on alcohol/drug use, novelty seeking and self-identified gambling problems compared to the low-gambling class. The extensive gambling class scored higher than the other gambling classes on risk factors.
Extensive gamblers and card gamblers are at higher risk for problem gambling and other risky health behaviours. Prospective examinations of class membership suggested that being in the extensive and the low gambling classes was highly stable across the 4 years of college.
College student population; gambling; gambling activities; longitudinal; risk factors
According to previous studies, one of the common problems of everyday life of persons with tattoos is risky behavior. However, direct examination of the decision making process, as well as factors which determine women’s risk-taking decisions to get tattoos, have not been conducted. This study investigates whether risk taking decision-making is associated with the self-assessment impulsiveness in tattooed women.
Young women (aged 18–35 years) with (N = 60) and without (N = 60) tattoos, performed the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), as a measure of decision-making processes, as well as completing the Barratt Impulsivity Scale (BIS-11).
Tattooed women showed significantly higher scores in the BIS-11 and preference for disadvantageous decks on the IGT compared to non-tattooed women. There was no significant correlation between risky decision-making in the IGT and BIS-11 impulsivity measures. A significantly higher rate of smoking was observed in the tattooed women. However, the analysis did not reveal a group effect after adjustment for smoking in the IGT and the BIS-11 measures.
The present study was specifically designed to resolve questions regarding associations between impulsiveness and risky decision-making in tattooed women. It shows that in tattooed women, risky decisions are not a direct result of their self-reported impulsiveness. Smoking does not explain the psychometric differences between tattooed women and controls.
Tattoo; The Iowa Gambling Task; Impulsivity; Smoking
Research has found that children who have parents with an addiction may be more vulnerable to developing psychopathology compared to children without parental addiction. We compared young adult, recreational gamblers with and without parental addiction on measures of gambling behavior and impulsivity. A total of 286 recreational gamblers (defined as having gambled at least five times in the past 12 months) between the ages of 18 and 29 participated in an initial intake of a longitudinal study assessing susceptibility to pathological gambling. Trained staff interviewed subjects and subjects completed cognitive testing and self-report measures. Fifty-three subjects (18.53%) reported at least one parent with an addiction (including alcohol and substance dependence and pathological gambling). Subjects with at least one addicted parent were significantly more likely to report problems resulting from gambling, have significantly greater rates of psychiatric comorbidity, and report significantly more current marijuana and tobacco use. Subjects with an addicted parent were not significantly different on measures of impulsivity. These findings suggest that even at a stage of low-risk gambling, before what has been considered a psychopathology arises, those with a possible environmental and/or genetic risk of addiction exhibit a range of problematic behaviors.
Pathological Gambling; Psychopathology; Addiction; Family History; Young Adults
Our objectives for this report were to identify trajectories of youth gambling behavior, and to examine their relation to executive cognitive function (ECF) and associated problem behaviors. Philadelphia school children, enrolled at ages 10–12 years (n = 387; 49% male), completed three annual assessments of risk behaviors, ECF, impulsivity, problem behaviors and demographics. Across ages 10–15 years, using methods from Nagin et al., two groups were identified: Early Gamblers (n = 111) initiated early and continued in later assessments, and Later Gamblers (n = 276) initiated at later ages and gambled less. Betting money on cards and sports were the most frequently reported gambling behaviors. Using gambling group as outcome, final backward selection logistic regression model showed Early Gamblers are more likely male (P = 0.001), report more active coping (P = 0.042), impulsive behaviors (P ≤ 0.008), and have friends who gamble (P = 0.001). Groups were similar in ECF, parental monitoring, marital status, SES, and race. Early Gamblers had higher incidence of problem behaviors and drug use (all P ≤ 0.006). Two gambling groups were identified in early adolescence with Early Gamblers showing higher levels of impulsivity and comorbid problems but similar levels of ECF compared to Late Gamblers. As more gambling groups are identified through later adolescence, ECF may emerge as a relevant precursor of problem gambling at this later time.
Youth gambling; Trajectories; Executive cognitive function; Impulsivity; Adolescence
The Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) involves probabilistic learning via monetary rewards and punishments, where advantageous task performance requires subjects to forego potential large immediate rewards for small longer-term rewards to avoid larger losses. Pathological gamblers (PG) perform worse on the IGT compared to controls, relating to their persistent preference toward high, immediate, and uncertain rewards despite experiencing larger losses. In this contribution, we review studies that investigated processes associated with poor IGT performance in PG. Findings from these studies seem to fit with recent neurocognitive models of addiction, which argue that the diminished ability of addicted individuals to ponder short-term against long-term consequences of a choice may be the product of an hyperactive automatic attentional and memory system for signaling the presence of addiction-related cues (e.g., high uncertain rewards associated with disadvantageous decks selection during the IGT) and for attributing to such cues pleasure and excitement. This incentive-salience associated with gambling-related choice in PG may be so high that it could literally “hijack” resources [“hot” executive functions (EFs)] involved in emotional self-regulation and necessary to allow the enactment of further elaborate decontextualized problem-solving abilities (“cool” EFs). A framework for future research is also proposed, which highlights the need for studies examining how these processes contribute specifically to the aberrant choice profile displayed by PG on the IGT.
gambling disorder; Iowa Gambling Task; decision-making; dual-process model; willpower
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder (BD) share DSM-IV criteria in adults and cause problems in decision-making. Nevertheless, no previous report has assessed a decision-making task that includes the examination of the neural correlates of reward and gambling in adults with ADHD and those with BD.
We used the Iowa gambling task (IGT), a task of rational decision-making under risk (RDMUR) and a rapid-decision gambling task (RDGT) which elicits behavioral measures as well as event-related potentials (ERPs: fERN and P3) in connection to the motivational impact of events. We did not observe between-group differences for decision-making under risk or ambiguity (RDMUR and IGT); however, there were significant differences for the ERP-assessed RDGT. Compared to controls, the ADHD group showed a pattern of impaired learning by feedback (fERN) and insensitivity to reward magnitude (P3). This ERP pattern (fERN and P3) was associated with impulsivity, hyperactivity, executive function and working memory. Compared to controls, the BD group showed fERN- and P3-enhanced responses to reward magnitude regardless of valence. This ERP pattern (fERN and P3) was associated with mood and inhibitory control. Consistent with the ERP findings, an analysis of source location revealed reduced responses of the cingulate cortex to the valence and magnitude of rewards in patients with ADHD and BD.
Our data suggest that neurophysiological (ERPs) paradigms such as the RDGT are well suited to assess subclinical decision-making processes in patients with ADHD and BD as well as for linking the cingulate cortex with action monitoring systems.
Little is known about the prevalence or correlates of DSM-IV pathological gambling (PG).
Data from the US National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), a nationally representative US household survey, were used to assess lifetime gambling symptoms and PG along with other DSM-IV disorders. Age-of-onset (AOO) of each lifetime disorder was assessed retrospectively. AOO reports were used to study associations between temporally primary disorders and the subsequent risk of secondary disorders.
Most respondents (78.4%) reported lifetime gambling. Lifetime problem gambling (at least one Criterion A symptom of PG) (2.3%) and PG (0.6%) were much less common. PG was significantly associated with being young, male, and Non-Hispanic Black. People with PG reported first gambling significantly earlier than non-problem gamblers (mean age: 16.7 vs. 23.9, z = 12.7, p < .001), with gambling problems typically beginning during the mid-20s and persisting for an average of 9.4 years. During this time the largest annual gambling losses averaged $4800. Onset and persistence of PG were predicted by a variety of prior DSM-IV anxiety, mood, impulse-control, and substance use disorders. PG also predicted the subsequent onset of generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance dependence. Although none of the NCS-R respondents with PG ever received treatment for gambling problems, 49.0% were treated at some time for other mental disorders.
DSM-IV PG is a comparatively rare, seriously impairing, and under-treated disorder whose symptoms typically start during early adulthood and is frequently secondary to other mental or substance disorders that are associated with both PG onset and persistence.
Epidemiology; National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R); Pathological Gambling
Gambling problems currently affect approximately 100 000 Finns. In order to prevent and reduce gambling-related harms it is crucial for the Finnish public health authorities to gain a stronger understanding of the association between gambling problems and related socio-demographic factors, other commonly co-occurring dependencies (e.g. alcohol and nicotine) and the type of games gambled. In this article the prevalence of problem gambling in Finland and the socio-demographic profiles of problem gamblers are studied.
An annual postal survey entitled Health Behaviour and Health among the Finnish Adult Population AVTK was sent to a random sample of Finnish adults (N=5000) aged between 15 and 64. The sample was derived from the Finnish Population Register. The survey was mailed to the participants in April 2010. Gender differences in socio-demographic variables and Problem Gambling Severity Index PGSI were assessed. A multinomial regression model was created in order to explore the association between socio-demographic factors and the severity of gambling.
A total of 2826 individuals (1243 males and 1583 females) replied to the survey. Of the respondents, 1.1% (2.1% of males, 0.3% of females) were identified as problem gamblers. Those who were of younger age, gender, had less than twelve years of education, consumed alcohol at risk level and smoked had higher odds of having low or moderate levels of gambling problems. Whereas, unemployment and smoking predicted significantly for problem gambling. Females gambled Lotto and slot machines less frequently than males and had more low level gambling problems. Males gambled more with a higher frequency and had a more severe level of gambling problems. Females were more attracted to scratch card gambling and daily Keno lotteries compared to males. In comparison, males gambled more on internet poker sites than females. Overall, a high frequency of gambling in Lotto, daily lotteries, slot machines, horse race betting and internet gambling was significantly associated with a more severe level of problem gambling.
Gambling problems affect tens of thousands of individuals annually, therefore certain vulnerabilities should be noted. Comorbid dependencies, smoking in particular, ought to be screened for and recognised in the public health sector. Regulating the availability of slot machine gambling and enforcement of the age limit should be acknowledged. In establishing new gambling venues, prevalence rates in those particular areas should be actively monitored.
We conducted a retrospective investigation of potential clinical, demographic, and neuropsychological risk factors for suicide attempts in patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Participants included 67 adult inpatients and outpatients aged 18–60 years meeting DSM-IV criteria for bipolar disorder (bipolar I and II disorders, bipolar disorder not otherwise specified). We assessed demographic factors, mood symptoms, psychosis, trauma history, trait impulsivity, trait aggression, and reasons for living. The primary outcome measures were the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-version II, Aggression Questionnaire, and 10 cognitive outcome variables. The cognitive outcome variables assessed cognitive performance across several domains, including processing speed, attention, verbal learning, and executive function. Another aspect of cognitive function, decision making, was assessed using the Iowa Gambling Task. The study was conducted from July 2007–July 2009.
We found that nonattempters reported significantly higher trait impulsivity scores on the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale compared to attempters (t57 = 2.2, P = .03) and that, among attempters, lower trait impulsivity score was associated with higher scores of lethality of prior attempts (r25 = −0.53, P = .01). Analyses revealed no other group differences on demographic, clinical, or neurocognitive variables when comparing attempters versus nonattempters. Regression models failed to identify any significant predictors of past suicide attempt.
The largely negative results of our study are particularly important in highlighting the clinical dilemma faced by many clinicians when trying to predict which patients will make serious suicide attempts and which patients are at a lower risk for acting on suicidal thoughts. A limitation of our work is that we examined stable trait measures of impulsivity among a euthymic sample rather than mood state or the impact of mood state on traits. Overall, we conclude that suicidal behavior is extremely difficult to predict, even when comprehensive clinical and neurocognitive information is available.
The purpose of this review is to gain more insight on the neurocognitive processes involved in the maintenance of pathological gambling. Firstly, we describe structural factors of gambling games that could promote the repetition of gambling experiences to such an extent that some individuals may become unable to control their gambling habits. Secondly, we review findings of neurocognitive studies on pathological gambling. As a whole, poor ability to resist gambling is a product of an imbalance between any one or a combination of three key neural systems: (1) an hyperactive ‘impulsive’ system, which is fast, automatic, and unconscious and promotes automatic and habitual actions; (2) a hypoactive ‘reflective’ system, which is slow and deliberative, forecasting the future consequences of a behavior, inhibitory control, and self-awareness; and (3) the interoceptive system, translating bottom-up somatic signals into a subjective state of craving, which in turn potentiates the activity of the impulsive system, and/or weakens or hijacks the goal-driven cognitive resources needed for the normal operation of the reflective system. Based on this theoretical background, we focus on certain clinical interventions that could reduce the risks of both gambling addiction and relapse.
pathological gambling; willpower; decision making; impulsive system; reflective system; craving
As a behavioral addiction with clinical and phenomenological similarities to substance addiction, recreational and pathological gambling represent models for studying the neurobiology of addiction, without the confounding deleterious brain effects which may occur from chronic substance abuse.
A community sample of individuals aged 18–65 years who gamble was solicited through newspaper advertising. Subjects were grouped a priori into three groups (no-risk, at-risk, and pathological gamblers) based on a diagnostic interview. All subjects underwent a psychiatric clinical interview and neurocognitive tests assessing motor impulsivity and cognitive flexibility. Subjects with a current axis I disorder, history of brain injury/trauma, or implementation or dose changes of psychoactive medication within 6 weeks of study enrollment were excluded.
A total of 135 no-risk, 69 at-risk and 46 pathological gambling subjects were assessed. Pathological gamblers were significantly older, and exhibited significant deficiencies in motor impulse control (stop-signal reaction times), response speed (median ‘go’ trial response latency) and cognitive flexibility [total intra-dimensional/extra-dimensional (IDED) errors] versus controls. The finding of impaired impulse control and cognitive flexibility was robust in an age-matched subgroup analysis of pathological gamblers. The no-risk and at-risk gambling groups did not significantly differ from each other on task performance.
Impaired response inhibition and cognitive flexibility exist in people with pathological gambling compared with no-risk and at-risk gamblers. The early identification of such illness in adolescence or young adulthood may aid in the prevention of addiction onset of such disabling disorders.
Cognition; gambling; impulsivity
Motivational and cognitive abnormalities are frequently reported in pathological gambling. However, studies simultaneously investigating motivational and cognitive processing in problematic gamblers are lacking, limiting our understanding of the interplay between these systems in problematic gambling. Studies in non-clinical samples indicate that interactions between dorsal “executive” and ventral “affective” processing systems are necessary for adequate responses in various emotive situations.
We conducted a generalized Psycho-Physiological Interaction (gPPI) analysis to assess the influence of affective stimuli on changes in functional connectivity associated with response inhibition in 16 treatment seeking problematic gamblers (PRGs) and 15 healthy controls (HCs) using an affective Go-NoGo fMRI paradigm including neutral, gambling-related, positive and negative pictures as neutral and affective conditions.
Across groups, task performance accuracy during neutral inhibition trials was positively correlated with functional connectivity between the left caudate and the right middle frontal cortex. During inhibition in the gambling condition, only in PRGs accuracy of task performance was positively correlated with functional connectivity within sub-regions of the dorsal executive system. Group interactions showed that during neutral inhibition, HCs exhibited greater functional connectivity between the left caudate and occipital cortex than PRGs. In contrast, during inhibition in the positive condition, PRGs compared to HCs showed greater functional connectivity between the left caudate and occipital cortex. During inhibition trials in the negative condition, a stronger functional connectivity between the left caudate and the right anterior cingulate cortex in PRGs compared to HCs was present. There were no group interactions during inhibition in the gambling condition.
During gamble inhibition PRGs seem to benefit more from functional connectivity within the dorsal executive system than HCs, because task accuracy in this condition in PRGs is positively correlated with functional connectivity, although the groups show similar connectivity patterns during gamble inhibition. Greater functional connectivity between the ventral affective system and the dorsal executive system in PRGs in the affective conditions compared to HCs, suggests facilitation of the dorsal executive system when affective stimuli are present specifically in PRGs.
Common clinical wisdom suggests that people who engage in self-injury are impulsive. However, virtually all prior work in this area has relied on individuals’ self-report of impulsiveness, despite evidence that people are limited in their ability to accurately report on cognitive processes that occur outside awareness. To address this knowledge gap, we used performance-based measures of several dimensions of impulsiveness to assess whether people engaging in non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) demonstrate greater impulsiveness than non-injurers. In Study 1, we compared adolescent self-injurers (n=64) to age, sex, and race/ethnicity matched, non-injurious controls (n=30) on self-report impulsiveness (Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School Age Children, Present and Lifetime Version, Kaufman et al., 1997), and on performance-based measures of two dimensions of impulsiveness: behavioral disinhibition (Conners’ Continuous Performance Test, Connors, 1995) and risky decision-making (Iowa Gambling Task, Bechara et al., 1994). In Study 2, we compared adult female self-injurers (n=20) to age and race/ethnicity matched, non-injurious controls (n=20) on self-report impulsiveness (Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11, Patton et al., 1995), and performance-based measures of behavioral disinhibition, risky decision-making, and two measures of delay discounting (Kirby et al., 1999; Richards et al., 1999). In both studies, self-injurers reported greater impulsiveness; however, performance-based measures of impulsiveness failed to detect any between-group differences. We propose several potential explanations for the discrepancies observed between self-report and performance-based measures of impulsiveness and discuss directions for future research on impulsiveness and self-injury.
self-injury; self-harm; suicide; impulsiveness; impulsivity
The recreational drug, MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine; ‘Ecstasy’), is a synthetic amphetamine derivative and a serotonin neurotoxin. MDMA use is associated with cognitive dysfunction and impulsivity, but since polydrug abuse is common among users it is difficult to attribute these problems specifically to MDMA. Moreover, few studies have examined reward-related cognitive processes. Our aim was to examine reward-related decision-making and impulsivity among MDMA users while controlling for polydrug use via appropriate comparison groups.
We examined decision-making (Iowa Gambling Task; IGT; Bechara et al., 1994), self-reported impulsivity (Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire – Brief Form [Constraint subscale]; Barratt Impulsiveness Scale; Zuckerman Sensation Seeking Scale), and drug use among 22 abstinent MDMA users, 30 other drug users, and 29 healthy non-drug controls.
MDMA and other drug users showed comparable patterns of decision-making and impulsivity. However, both drug groups demonstrated poorer IGT performance and elevated self-reported impulsivity relative to controls. Poorer decision-making was related to heavier drug use in the past year, heavier weekly alcohol use, and meeting lifetime substance use disorder (SUD) criteria for more drug classes. Elevated impulsivity was associated with heavier drug use, heavier weekly alcohol use, more lifetime SUDs, and higher self-reported depression levels.
These findings contradict the idea that MDMA is specifically associated with deficient decision-making. Drug users, in general, may be at risk for decision-making deficits and elevated impulsivity. Such behaviors may represent trait factors that lead to the initiation of drug and alcohol use, and/or they may represent behavior patterns that are exacerbated by extensive use.
MDMA; drug use; alcohol use; executive functions; decision-making; impulsivity
This study examined putative subtypes of pathological gamblers (PGs) based on the Pathways Model, and it also evaluated whether the subtypes would benefit differentially from treatment. Treatment-seeking PGs (N = 229) were categorized into Pathways subtypes based on scores from questionnaires assessing anxiety, depression and impulsivity. The Addiction Severity Index Gambling assessed severity of gambling problems at baseline, post-treatment and 12-month follow-up. Compared with Behaviorally Conditioned (BC) gamblers, Emotionally Vulnerable (EV) gamblers had higher psychiatric and gambling severity, and were more likely to have a parent with a psychiatric history. Antisocial Impulsive (AI) gamblers also had elevated gambling and psychiatric severity relative to BC gamblers. They were more likely to have antisocial personality disorder and had the highest legal and family/social severity scores. They were also most likely to have a history of substance abuse treatment, history of inpatient psychiatric treatment, and a parent with a substance use or gambling problem. AI and EV gamblers experienced greater gambling severity throughout treatment than BC gamblers, but all three subtypes demonstrated similar patterns of treatment response. Thus, the three Pathways subtypes differ based on some baseline characteristics, but subtyping did not predict treatment outcomes beyond a simple association with problem gambling severity.
Pathological gambling; Pathways model; depression; impulsivity; gambling subtype
Although pathological gambling (PG) is relatively common, pharmacotherapy research for PG is limited. Memantine, an N-methyl d-aspartate receptor antagonist, appears to reduce glutamate excitability and improve impulsive decision making, suggesting it may help individuals with PG.
This study sought to examine the safety and efficacy of Memantine in PG.
Twenty-nine subjects (18 females) with DSM-IV PG were enrolled in a 10-week open-label treatment study of memantine (dose ranging from 10 to 30 mg/day). Subjects were enrolled from January 2009 until April 2010. Change from baseline to study endpoint on the Yale Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale Modified for Pathological Gambling (PG-YBOCS) was the primary outcome measure. Subjects underwent pre- and post-treatment cognitive assessments using the stop-signal task (assessing response impulsivity) and the intra-dimensional/extra-dimensional (ID/ED) set shift task (assessing cognitive flexibility).
Twenty-eight of the 29 subjects (96.6%) completed the 10-week study. PG-YBOCS scores decreased from a mean of 21.8±4.3 at baseline to 8.9±7.1 at study endpoint (p<0.001). Hours spent gambling per week and money spent gambling both decreased significantly (p<0.001). Subjects also demonstrated a significant improvement in ID/ED total errors (p=0.037) at study endpoint. The mean effective dose of memantine was 23.4±8.1 mg/day. The medication was well-tolerated. Memantine treatment was associated with diminished gambling and improved cognitive flexibility.
These findings suggest that pharmacological manipulation of the glutamate system may target both gambling and cognitive deficits in PG. Placebo-controlled, double-blind studies are warranted in order to confirm these preliminary findings in a controlled design.
Cognition; Glutamate; Impulsivity; Treatment; Pharmacology; Addiction
Recent studies suggest that abstinent cannabis users show deficits on neurocognitive laboratory tasks of impulsive behavior. But results are mixed and less is known on the performance of non-treatment seeking, young adult cannabis users. Importantly, relationships between performance on measures of impulsive behavior and symptoms of cannabis addiction remain relatively unexplored. We compared young adult current cannabis users (CU, n = 65) and non-using controls (NU, n = 65) on several laboratory measures of impulsive behavior, as well as on a measure of episodic memory commonly impacted by cannabis use. The CU group performed more poorly than the NU group on the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test-Revised Total Immediate Recall and Delayed Recall. No significant differences were observed on the measures of impulsive behavior (i.e., Iowa Gambling Task [IGT], Go-Stop Task, Monetary Choice Questionnaire, Balloon Analogue Risk Task). We examined relationships between neurocognitive performance and symptoms of cannabis use disorder symptoms (DSM-IV CUD) among the CU group, which revealed that poorer IGT performance was associated with more symptoms of DSM-IV CUD. Our results show poorer memory performance among young adult cannabis users relative to healthy controls, but no differences on measures of impulsive behavior. However, performance on a specific type of impulsive behavior (i.e., poorer decision-making) was associated with more cannabis use disorder symptoms. These results provide preliminary evidence to suggest that decision-making deficits may be more strongly associated with problems experienced from cannabis use, rather than solely being a consequence of cannabis use, per se.
cannabis; addiction; decision-making; neuropsychology; memory; cognitive effects