Fascinating new studies into brain activity and behavioral responses have highlighted the overlap between pathological gambling and drug addiction. The research, which is presented at the British Neuroscience Association Festival of Neuroscience (BNA2013) has implications for both the treatment and prevention of problem gambling.
Dr Luke Clark, a senior lecturer at the University of Cambridge (UK), told the meeting that neurocognitive tests of impulsivity and compulsivity, and also positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of the brain have started to show how gambling becomes addictive in pathological gamblers — people whose gambling habit has spiraled out of control and become a problem.
“Around 70% of the British population will gamble occasionally, but for some of these people, it will become a problem,” he said. “Our work has been seeking to understand the changes in decision-making that happen in people with gambling problems. It represents the first large scale study of individuals seeking treatment for gambling problems in the UK, at a time when this disorder is being re-classified alongside drug addiction as the first ‘behavioral addiction’. Given the unique legislation around gambling from country to country, it is vital that we understand gambling at a national level. For example, 40% of the problem gamblers at the National Problem Gambling Clinic report that the game they have a problem with is roulette on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals; this kind of gambling machine is peculiar to the British gambling landscape.”
Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education