Legalized gambling is a growing industry, and is probably a factor in the presently increasing prevalence of pathological gambling. We present a case of a 36-year-old pathological gambler who was treated with fluvoxamine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and who was assessed by functional MRI before and after drug administration. During activation periods, the pathological gambler was shown cards as stimuli, and fMRI results in several brain regions showed differential effects before and after medication and a maintenance period. This case demonstrates that the treatment response to fluvoxamine in a pathological gambler was observed not only by subjective self-report, but also by objective fMRI results. Therefore, fMRI may be a useful tool in the diagnosis and prediction of treatment response in patients afflicted with pathological gambling.
Fluvoxamine; functional MRI; pathological gambling
The neurobehavioral underpinnings of pathological gambling are not well understood. Insight might be gained by understanding pharmacological effects on the reward system in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Treatment with dopamine agonists (DAs) has been associated with pathological gambling in PD patients. However, how DAs are involved in the development of this form of addiction is unknown. We tested the hypothesis that tonic stimulation of dopamine receptors specifically desensitizes the dopaminergic reward system by preventing decreases in dopaminergic transmission that occurs with negative feedback. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we studied PD patients during three sessions of a probabilistic reward task in random order: off medication, after levodopa (LD) treatment, and after an equivalent dose of DA (pramipexole). For each trial, a reward prediction error value was computed using outcome, stake, and probability. Pramipexole specifically changed activity of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in two ways that were both associated with increased risk taking in an out-of-magnet task. Outcome-induced activations were generally higher with pramipexole compared with LD or off medication. In addition, only pramipexole greatly diminished trial-by-trial correlation with reward prediction error values. Further analysis yielded that this resulted mainly from impaired deactivation in trials with negative errors in reward prediction. We propose that DAs prevent pauses in dopamine transmission and thereby impair the negative reinforcing effect of losing. Our findings raise the question of whether pathological gambling may in part stem from an impaired capacity of the OFC to guide behavior when facing negative consequences.
PMID: 19741594 CAMSID: cams1534
fMRI; impulse control disorder; dopamine agonist; reward; addiction; reinforcement
We describe a patient with advanced Parkinson's disease who developed pathological gambling within a month after successful bilateral subthalamic nucleus (STN) stimulation. There was no history of gambling. On neuropsychological testing, slight cognitive decline was evident 1 year after surgery. Stimulation of the most dorsal contact with and without medication induced worse performances on decision making tests compared with the more ventral contact. Pathological gambling disappeared after discontinuation of pergolide and changing the stimulation parameters. Pathological gambling does not seem to be associated with decision making but appears to be related to a combination of bilateral STN stimulation and treatment with dopamine agonists.
Several studies have related pathological gambling in PD to dopamine agonist therapy. A mail-in survey was sent to PD patients seen at the University of Florida Movement Disorders Center to determine gambling frequency and behavior, and any lifestyle or environmental factors associated with compulsive gambling in PD. 462 surveys were sent and 127 completed surveys were returned, of which ten were from patients who met criteria for compulsive gambling. All ten were taking dopamine agonists coincident with the compulsive gambling. Compulsive gamblers were younger, and psychological distress measures revealed that compulsive gamblers exhibited higher levels of anxiety, anger, and confusion. Thus in this cohort, we have uncovered the several characteristics of the most likely PD compulsive gambler, namely: (young) age, “angry”, “anxious”, and using a (dopamine) agonist.
Parkinson; gambling; compulsive behavior; dopamine agonist; anxiety
Gambling is characterized by cognitive distortions in the processing of chance and skill that are exacerbated in pathological gambling. Opioid and dopamine dysregulation is implicated in pathological gambling, but it is unclear whether these neurotransmitters modulate gambling distortions. The objective of the current study was to assess the effects of the opioid receptor antagonist naltrexone and the dopamine D2 receptor antagonist haloperidol on gambling behavior. Male recreational gamblers (n = 62) were assigned to receive single oral doses of naltrexone 50 mg, haloperidol 2 mg or placebo, in a parallel-groups design. At 2.5 h post-dosing, participants completed a slot machine task to elicit monetary wins, “near-misses,” and a manipulation of personal choice, and a roulette game to elicit two biases in sequential processing, the gambler's fallacy and the hot hand belief. Psychophysiological responses (electrodermal activity and heart rate) were taken during the slot machine task, and plasma prolactin increase was assessed. The tasks successfully induced the gambling effects of interest. Some of these effects differed across treatment groups, although the direction of effect was not in line with our predictions. Differences were driven by the naltrexone group, which displayed a greater physiological response to wins, and marginally higher confidence ratings on winning streaks. Prolactin levels increased in the naltrexone group, but did not differ between haloperidol and placebo, implying that naltrexone but not haloperidol may have been functionally active at these doses. Our results support opioid modulation of cognition during gambling-like tasks, but did not support the more specific hypothesis that naltrexone may act to ameliorate cognitive distortions.
naltrexone; haloperidol; pathological gambling; addiction; reward; motivation; decision-making; psychophysiology
Pathological gambling is an impulse control disorder reported in association with dopamine agonists used to treat Parkinson’s disease. Although impulse control disorders are conceptualized as lying within the spectrum of addictions, little neurobiological evidence exists to support this belief. Functional imaging studies have consistently demonstrated abnormalities of dopaminergic function in patients with drug addictions, but to date no study has specifically evaluated dopaminergic function in Parkinson’s disease patients with impulse control disorders. We describe results of a [11C] raclopride positron emission tomography (PET) study comparing dopaminergic function during gambling in Parkinson’s disease patients, with and without pathological gambling, following dopamine agonists. Patients with pathological gambling demonstrated greater decreases in binding potential in the ventral striatum during gambling (13.9%) than control patients (8.1%), likely reflecting greater dopaminergic release. Ventral striatal bindings at baseline during control task were also lower in patients with pathological gambling. Although prior imaging studies suggest that abnormality in dopaminergic binding and dopamine release may be markers of vulnerability to addiction, this study presents the first evidence of these phenomena in pathological gambling. The emergence of pathological gambling in a number of Parkinson’s disease patients may provide a model into the pathophysiology of this disorder.
PMID: 19346328 CAMSID: cams2369
Parkinson’s disease; dopamine; impulse control disorders; pathological gambling; PET; functional imaging
Dopaminergic medication for motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease (PD) recently has been linked with impulse control disorders, including pathological gambling (PG), which affects up to 8% of patients. PG often is considered a behavioral addiction associated with disinhibition, risky decision-making, and altered striatal dopaminergic neurotransmission. Using [11C]raclopride with positron emission tomography, we assessed dopaminergic neurotransmission during Iowa Gambling Task performance. Here we present data from a single patient with PD and concomitant PG. We noted a marked decrease in [11C]raclopride binding in the left ventral striatum upon gambling, indicating a gambling-induced dopamine release. The results imply that PG in PD is associated with a high dose of dopaminergic medication, pronounced motor symptomatology, young age at disease onset, high propensity for sensation seeking, and risky decision-making. Overall, the findings are consistent with the hypothesis of medication-related PG in PD and underscore the importance of taking clinical variables, such as age and personality, into account when patients with PD are medicated, to reduce the risk of PG.
Parkinson’s disease; pathological gambling; impulse control disorders; decision-making; dopamine
Pathological gambling (PG), which is characterized by consistent, repetitive gambling and unsuccessful quitting attempts, is classified as an impulse control disorder. PG has also been reported in patients with Parkinson's disease, frontotemporal dementia, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
A 53-year-old male visited the outpatient clinic due to excessive gambling and personality changes. Based on electrophysiological findings and neuropsychiatric assessment, he was diagnosed as frontotemporal dementia-amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
This case report underlines that PG can also be seen in patients with neurological disorders involving the orbitofrontal cortex.
frontotemporal dementia; pathological gambling; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Dopamine agonist therapy and deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) are antiparkinsonian treatments that act on a different part of the basal ganglia-thalamocortical motor circuitry, yet produce similar symptomatic improvements.
The purpose of this study was to identify common and unique brain network features of these standard treatments.
We analyzed images produced by H215O positron emission tomography (PET) of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) at rest. Nine patients were scanned before and after injection of apomorphine, and eleven patients were scanned while bilateral stimulators were off and while they were on.
Both treatments produced common deactivations of the neocortical sensorimotor areas, including the supplementary motor area, precentral gyrus, and postcentral gyrus, and in subcortical structures, including the putamen and cerebellum. We observed concomitant activations of the superior parietal lobule and the midbrain in the region of the substantia nigra/STN. We also detected unique, treatment-specific changes with possible motor-related consequences in the basal ganglia, thalamus, neocortical sensorimotor cortex, and posterolateral cerebellum. Unique changes in non-motor regions may reflect treatment-specific effects on verbal fluency and limbic functions.
Many of the common effects of these treatments are consistent with the standard pathophysiological model of PD. However, the common effects in the cerebellum are not readily explained by the model. Consistent deactivation of the cerebellum is interesting in light of recent reports of synaptic pathways directly connecting the cerebellum and basal ganglia, and may warrant further consideration for incorporation into the model.
Parkinson’s disease; deep brain stimulation; apomorphine; positron emission tomography
This article describes the socio-demographic characteristics and gambling behavior of 39 pathological gamblers who participated in our treatment study in 2009. The inclusion criteria of the study were: score of five or more on both the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS) and a pathological gambling screen based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). The first 39 patients meeting the inclusion criterion were recruited into the study. The average age of the subjects was 39 years, and 80 % were males. The lag-time between active gambling (at least three times per week) and the onset of a pathological gambling problem was short: within 2 years of active gambling, 62 % of the subjects reported having become pathological gamblers. Our results also indicated certain gender-specific differences in the age at initiation and in the severity of the gambling problem.
SOGS; DSM-IV; Pathological gambling; Gambling
Individuals with addictive disorders, including substance abusers and pathological gamblers, discount or devalue rewards delayed in time more than controls. Theoretically, preference for probabilistic rewards is directly related to gambling, but limited empirical research has examined probabilistic discounting in individuals with pathological gambling. This study evaluated probability and delay discounting in treatment-seeking pathological gamblers and their association with gambling treatment outcomes during and following treatment. At time of treatment entry, 226 pathological gamblers completed probability and delay discounting tasks. They were then randomized to one of three treatment conditions, and gambling behavior was measured throughout treatment and at a one-year follow-up assessment. After controlling for possibly confounding variables and treatment condition, more shallow probability discounting was associated with greater reductions in amounts wagered during treatment and likelihood of gambling abstinence at the end of treatment and throughout the follow-up period. No associations were noted between delay discounting and gambling treatment outcomes. These data suggest that probability discounting may be an important construct in understanding pathological gambling and its treatment.
probability discounting; pathological gambling; treatment
The present investigation examined a behavior-analytic clinical treatment package designed to reduce the pathological gambling of 3 individuals with acquired brain injury. A prior history of pathological gambling of each patient was assessed via caregiver report, psychological testing, and direct observation of gambling behavior. Using an 8-week one-on-one client–patient format, a treatment program was developed in which the patient learned about the antecedents, consequences, and motivating operations that controlled the emission of gambling behavior. Data were collected on both self-report of gambling urges and behavior following therapy and during in situ gambling opportunities. The therapy program reduced urges to gamble and actual gambling for all patients. The potential of behavior-analytic therapy for reducing the pathological gambling of patients with and without brain injury is discussed.
gambling therapy; impulsivity; brain injury; cognitive behavior therapy
Community data suggest frequent co-occurrence between schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder and problem gambling. However, gambling behaviors in large samples of patients with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder have not been systematically examined to date.
A sample of outpatient subjects (n=337) diagnosed with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder or schizoaffective disorder and treated in either a VA hospital or a local state mental health center was interviewed in order to examine the prevalence estimates and clinical correlates of problem and pathological gambling. Multinomial logistic regression models investigated clinically relevant measures in recreational or problem/pathological gamblers, as compared to non-gamblers.
Sixty-five participants (19%) met criteria for past-year problem/pathological gambling, with 10% meeting criteria for pathological gambling. Significant correlates of problem and pathological gambling from multivariable models included greater alcohol use severity (p=0.007), higher depression scores (p=0.04), and more outpatient mental health care utilization (p=0.03). Participants with problem/pathological gambling were more likely than recreational gamblers to gamble for excitement, gamble more frequently and heavily, and report either sports or card gambling as favorite.
A substantial proportion of individuals in treatment for psychotic disorders report past-year gambling problems. Patients with co-occurring alcohol use problems and depression may be at particularly high risk. These findings suggest the need for improved prevention and treatment efforts related to problem/pathological gambling in individuals with psychotic disorders.
A 55-year-old male with idiopathic Parkinson's disease developed three behavioral changes under combination therapy with selegiline, cabergoline and levodopa. Co-existent behaviors included severe pathological gambling, punding and novel skills in writing poetry (published poetry books). Brain [18F]fluorodopa PET imaging showed decreased tracer uptake in the striatum contralateral to the predominant motor symptoms, consistent with the clinical diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. Uptake in the ventral striatum was markedly high. Brain MRI before and after behavioral changes showed no pathological findings. The patient was diagnosed as having Parkinson's disease together with DSM-IV criteria-fulfilling pathological gambling and punding-like stereotyped behavior. There are no established criteria for the classification of emerged artistic creativity, although there are descriptions of the phenomenon in the literature. Inspired by the case, we conducted a preliminary survey – including 290 patients with Parkinson's disease – exploring the possible relationship between creativity and impulsive-compulsive behaviors. The case, supported by the results of the survey, adds to the cumulative evidence of the association between dopaminergic medication and enhanced creativity, and suggests a possible linkage between increased artistic creativity and impulsive-compulsive behaviors in Parkinson's disease. Furthermore, it could be speculated that the high mesolimbic dopamine function might relate to the behavioral changes observed in this patient, and is suggestive of the overlapping neurobiological mechanisms of compulsive behaviors and artistic creativity.
Parkinson's disease; Impulse control disorder; Gambling; Punding; Mesolimbic; Dopamine; Ventral striatum; Creativity
Functional neuroimaging studies of pathological gambling (PG) demonstrate alterations in frontal and subcortical regions of the mesolimbic reward system. However, most investigations were performed using tasks involving reward processing or executive functions. Little is known about brain network abnormalities during task-free resting state in PG. In the present study, graph-theoretical methods were used to investigate network properties of resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging data in PG. We compared 19 patients with PG to 19 healthy controls (HCs) using the Graph Analysis Toolbox (GAT). None of the examined global metrics differed between groups. At the nodal level, pathological gambler showed a reduced clustering coefficient in the left paracingulate cortex and the left juxtapositional lobe (supplementary motor area, SMA), reduced local efficiency in the left SMA, as well as an increased node betweenness for the left and right paracingulate cortex and the left SMA. At an uncorrected threshold level, the node betweenness in the left inferior frontal gyrus was decreased and increased in the caudate. Additionally, increased functional connectivity between fronto-striatal regions and within frontal regions has also been found for the gambling patients. These findings suggest that regions associated with the reward system demonstrate reduced segregation but enhanced integration while regions associated with executive functions demonstrate reduced integration. The present study makes evident that PG is also associated with abnormalities in the topological network structure of the brain during rest. Since alterations in PG cannot be explained by direct effects of abused substances on the brain, these findings will be of relevance for understanding functional connectivity in other addictive disorders.
fMRI; graph theory; network; connectivity; pathological gambling; reward; behavioral addiction; small world
Recent studies have suggested that the brain circuitry mediating cue induced desire for video games is similar to that elicited by cues related to drugs and alcohol. We hypothesized that desire for internet video games during cue presentation would activate similar brain regions to those which have been linked with craving for drugs or pathological gambling.
This study involved the acquisition of diagnostic MRI and fMRI data from 19 healthy male adults (ages 18–23 years) following training and a standardized 10-day period of game play with a specified novel internet video game, “War Rock” (K-network®). Using segments of videotape consisting of five contiguous 90-second segments of alternating resting, matched control and video game-related scenes, desire to play the game was assessed using a seven point visual analogue scale before and after presentation of the videotape.
In responding to internet video game stimuli, compared to neutral control stimuli, significantly greater activity was identified in left inferior frontal gyrus, left parahippocampal gyrus, right and left parietal lobe, right and left thalamus, and right cerebellum (FDR <0.05, p<0.009243). Self-reported desire was positively correlated with the beta values of left inferior frontal gyrus, left parahippocampal gyrus, and right and left thalamus. Compared to the general players, members who played more internet video game (MIGP) cohort showed significantly greater activity in right medial frontal lobe, right and left frontal pre-central gyrus, right parietal post-central gyrus, right parahippocampal gyrus, and left parietal precuneus gyrus. Controlling for total game time, reported desire for the internet video game in the MIGP cohort was positively correlated with activation in right medial frontal lobe and right parahippocampal gyrus.
The present findings suggest that cue-induced activation to internet video game stimuli may be similar to that observed during cue presentation in persons with substance dependence or pathological gambling. In particular, cues appear to commonly elicit activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal, orbitofrontal cortex, parahippocampal gyrus, and thalamus.
internet video game play; functional MRI; frontal cortex; parahippocampal gyrus; thalamus
Impulse control disorders such as pathological gambling (PG) are a serious and common adverse effect of dopamine (DA) replacement medication in Parkinson’s disease (PD). Patients with PG have increased impulsivity and abnormalities in striatal DA, in common with behavioural and substance addictions in the non-PD population. To date, no studies have investigated the role of extrastriatal dopaminergic abnormalities in PD patients with PG. We used the PET radiotracer, [11C] FLB-457, with high-affinity for extrastriatal DA D2/3 receptors. 14 PD patients on DA agonists were imaged while they performed a gambling task involving real monetary reward and a control task. Trait impulsivity was measured with the Barratt Impulsivity Scale (BIS). Seven of the patients had a history of PG that developed subsequent to DA agonist medication. Change in [11C] FLB-457 binding potential (BP) during gambling was reduced in PD with PG patients in the midbrain, where D2/D3 receptors are dominated by autoreceptors. The degree of change in [11C] FLB-457 binding in this region correlated with impulsivity. In the cortex, [11C] FLB-457 BP was significantly greater in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in PD patients with PG during the control task, and binding in this region was also correlated with impulsivity. Our findings provide the first evidence that PD patients with PG have dysfunctional activation of DA autoreceptors in the midbrain and low DA tone in the ACC. Thus, altered striatal and cortical DA homeostasis may incur vulnerability for the development of PG in PD, linked with the impulsive personality trait.
PMID: 22766031 CAMSID: cams2373
Parkinson’s disease; Dopamine agonists; Pathological gambling; Impulsivity
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
Pathological gambling has many similarities to pharmacological addiction. Notably, both pathological gambling and drug addiction are characterized by aberrations in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis responding. As well, there are indications that gender differences may play a role in these processes. Whether gender and/or HPA response are associated with pathological gambling was of interest. Recreational and pathological gamblers (15 men and 6 women per group) had the HPA factor, cortisol, assessed in saliva collected before and after watching a video of their preferred mode of gambling (slot machines, horse race betting, scratch-off tickets, blackjack, video poker, craps, sports betting, online casino games, or lottery tickets), and a video of neutral stimuli (a rollercoaster ride). Basal levels of salivary cortisol did not significantly differ among recreational and pathological gamblers. However, recreational gamblers demonstrated significantly increased salivary cortisol levels after the gambling and rollercoaster videos, whereas pathological gamblers demonstrated no salivary cortisol increase in response to either video stimulus. There was also a non-significant trend for women to have a greater cortisol response to video stimuli compared to men. These data suggest that pathological gambling is associated with hypoactive HPA response to gambling stimuli, similar to chronic drug exposure, and gender may contribute to this effect.
Addiction; Gender Differences; Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis; Pathological Gambling; Problem Gambling; Recreational Gambling
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
Although prior studies have examined various clinical characteristics of pathological gambling (PG), limited data exist regarding the clinical correlates of PG based on preferred forms of gambling.
We grouped patients meeting DSM-IV criteria for pathological gambling into 3 categories of preferred forms of gambling: strategic (eg, cards, dice, sports betting, stock market), nonstrategic (eg, slots, video poker, pull tabs), or both. We then compared the groups’ clinical characteristics, gambling severity (using the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale Modified for Pathological Gambling, the Clinical Global Impression–Severity scale, and time and money spent gambling) and psychiatric comorbidity.
The 440 patients included in this sample (54.1% females; mean age 47.69 ± 11.36 years) comprised the following groups: strategic (n = 56; 12.7%), nonstrategic (n = 200; 45.5%), or both (n = 184; 41.8%). Nonstrategic gamblers were significantly more likely to be older and female. Money spent gambling, frequency of gambling, gambling severity, and comorbid disorders did not differ significantly among groups.
These preliminary results suggest that preferred form of gambling may be associated with certain age groups and sexes but is not associated with any specific clinical differences.
impulse control disorders; pathological gambling; phenomenology
Gambling is a widespread form of entertainment that may afford unique insights into the interaction between cognition and emotion in human decision-making. It is also a behaviour that can become harmful, and potentially addictive, in a minority of individuals. This article considers the status of two dominant approaches to gambling behaviour. The cognitive approach has identified a number of erroneous beliefs held by gamblers, which cause them to over-estimate their chances of winning. The psychobiological approach has examined case-control differences between groups of pathological gamblers and healthy controls, and has identified dysregulation of brain areas linked to reward and emotion, including the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and striatum, as well as alterations in dopamine neurotransmission. In integrating these two approaches, recent data are discussed that reveal anomalous recruitment of the brain reward system (including the vmPFC and ventral striatum) during two common cognitive distortions in gambling games: the near-miss effect and the effect of personal control. In games of chance, near-misses and the presence of control have no objective influence on the likelihood of winning. These manipulations appear to harness a reward system that evolved to learn skill-oriented behaviours, and by modulating activity in this system, these cognitive distortions may promote continued, and potentially excessive, gambling.
gambling; addiction; risk; reward; cognition; emotion
Twenty-one treatment-seeking pathological gamblers, 21 pathological gamblers in recovery, and 21 recreational gamblers watched two video-taped exciting gambling scenarios and an exciting roller-coaster control scenario while their arousal (heart rate and subjective excitement) and urge to gamble were being measured. The gamblers did not differ significantly in cue-elicited heart rate elevations or excitement. However, the active pathological gamblers reported significantly greater urges to gamble across all cues compared to the abstinent pathological gamblers and, with marginal significance (p = 0.06), also compared to the social gamblers. Further exploration of these findings revealed that active pathological gamblers experience urges to gamble in response to exciting situations, whether or not they are gambling related, whereas abstinent and social gamblers only report urges to an exciting gambling-related cue. This suggests that for pathological gamblers excitement itself, irrespective of its source, may become a conditioned stimulus capable of triggering gambling behavior. Implications for treatment and future research are discussed.
Pathological gambling; Cue reactivity; Urge; Excitement; Addiction
Nineteen treatment-seeking men meeting DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling and 19 demographic-matched controls participated. Participants provided demographic information, information about their recent drug-use and gambling activities, and biological samples (to confirm drug abstinence). They also completed the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS), and two questionnaires designed to separately quantify probability and delay discounting. Pathological gamblers discounted probabilistic rewards significantly less steeply than matched controls. A significant correlation revealed that more shallow probability discounting was associated with higher SOGS scores. Across groups, there was no significant difference in delay discounting, although this difference approached significance when education and ethnicity were included as covariates. These findings, collected for the first time with pathological gamblers, are consistent with previous reports that problem-gambling college students discount probabilistic rewards less steeply than controls. The nature of the relation between probability discounting and severity of problem gambling is deserving of further study.
probability discounting; pathological gambling; delay discounting; SOGS
Gambling is a common recreational activity that becomes dysfunctional in a subset of individuals, with DSM ‘pathological gambling’ regarded as the most severe form. During gambling, players experience a range of cognitive distortions that promote an over-estimation of the chances of winning. Near-miss outcomes are thought to fuel these distortions. We observed previously that near-misses recruited overlapping circuitry to monetary wins in a study in healthy volunteers (Clark et al. 2009). The present study sought to extend these observations in regular gamblers and relate brain responses to an index of gambling severity. Twenty regular gamblers, who varied in their involvement from recreational players to probable pathological gamblers, were scanned whilst performing a simplified slot-machine task that delivered occasional monetary wins, as well as near-miss and full-miss non-win outcomes. In the overall group, near-miss outcomes were associated with a significant response in the ventral striatum, which was also recruited by monetary wins. Gambling severity, measured with the South Oaks Gambling Screen, predicted a greater response in the dopaminergic midbrain to near-miss outcomes. This effect survived controlling for clinical co-morbidities that were present in the regular gamblers. Gambling severity did not predict win-related responses in the midbrain or elsewhere. These results demonstrate that near-miss events during gambling recruit reward-related brain circuitry in regular players. An association with gambling severity in the midbrain suggests that near-miss outcomes may enhance dopamine transmission in disordered gambling, which extends neurobiological similarities between pathological gambling and drug addiction.
Gambling; Cognitive; Addiction; Dopamine; Striatum; Midbrain