Medications such as antidepressants may be used to treat the symptoms of co-existent disorders such as depression or anxiety. In some cases, these medications may also reduce the symptoms of gambling disorder. Research has not yet discovered a specific gene that appears to be associated with gambling disorder. Gambling addiction likely arises from a combination of factors, including genetics and the environment. A new study by a team from Johns Hopkins University appears to have identified a region of the brain that plays a critical role in risky decisions. Published September 20 in Current Biology, the authors analyzed the behavior of rhesus monkeys, who share similar brain structure and function to our own.
This target was probably chosen because of the data from SUD patients (Ekhtiari et al., 2019), and the similarities between SUD, behavioral addiction, and GD. Future studies on GD and behavioral addictions should consider the similarities and the differences between gambling and SUDs, exploring the role of NIBS on other brain areas, including the deeper ones (Spagnolo and Goldman, 2017; Gomis-Vicent et al., 2019). Fourth, another critical issue is the standardization of a panel of GD clinical outcomes together with surrogate measures that represent biomarker of changes related to NIBS. Fifth, most of the studies focused on short-term outcomes (i.e., immediate craving reduction), without adequate follow-up sessions to evaluate the persistence of changes induced by NIBS over time.
In a second study, we are evaluating the quality and specificity of pre-registrations of gambling research. From this, we hope to bring attention to value the pre-registering one’s studies, and to highlight the importance of doing this well if wanting to reduce concerns of bias (e.g., p-hacking, HARKing). Venue Staff training in responsible gambling is a strategy adopted by many gaming providers to help prevent or reduce potential gambling-related harms. Research on existing venue staff training suggest methods in place do not assist in increasing staff members’ ability to proactively interact with customers who show early warning signs of distress.
A recent study using a contingency judgment task from the associative learning literature found that pathological gamblers displayed a greater tendency to overestimate their control of positive outcomes than nongambling participants (Orgaz et al., 2013). Other recent work has considered the impact of “near miss” outcomes, unsuccessful outcomes that are proximal to a major win . Using a slot machine task that delivered occasional jackpot wins, near misses were associated with higher self-reported motivations to gamble than full-miss outcomes, despite their objective equivalence as nonwins (Clark et al., 2009). The other brain region that is often implicated in gambling and substance use disorders is the prefrontal cortex. This region is involved in decision-making, controlling impulsivity, and cognitive control. Several studies have shown that problem gamblers and drug addicts both showed less activation of the prefrontal cortex in response to gambling-related cues.
“I see it as an out of body experience at times, so all rationale, logic and good decision making was completely bypassed. “There is definitely a genetic contribution to it. Some people are genetically predisposed to prefer immediate rewards.” A lot of people will be able to get that dopamine buzz and move on with their lives. “But that primitive bit of the brain is still there and that immediate reward without much thinking and without much logic is still functional. The scanner enabled the researchers to chart the activity in these regions by showing how and to which degree the regions interacted with each other. As expected, the gamblers found it much harder to avoid pushing the button than the control subjects in the experiment.
Clark’s research revealed some of the details of gambling’s reward-system takeover. Scientists think it evolved to ensure that humans learn things essential to survival, such as foraging for food or picking a reproductive partner. In the last decade, researchers have learned a lot more about how this reward-based learning system works, and how addiction can take it over. Though all three types of pathological gamblers are vulnerable to addiction at the outset, they have to “learn” to compulsively gamble. It’s this conditioning process that fascinated Skinner, and before him the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, who famously taught dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. These “anti-social impulsivist” gamblers are looking for thrills and adventure, for any antidote to monotony.