Rewards in pathological gambling

Imbalance in the sensitivity to different types of rewards in pathological gambling
Brain (2013)
Guillaume Sescousse, et al.

Pathological gambling is an addictive disorder characterized by a persistent and compulsive desire to engage in gambling activities.

This maladaptive behaviour has been suggested to result from a decreased sensitivity to experienced rewards, regardless of reward type.

Alternatively, pathological gambling might reflect an imbalance in the sensitivity to monetary versus non-monetary incentives.

To directly test these two hypotheses, we examined how the brain reward circuit of pathological gamblers responds to different types of rewards.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we compared the brain responses of 18 pathological gamblers and 20 healthy control subjects while they engaged in a simple incentive task manipulating both monetary and visual erotic rewards.
During reward anticipation, the ventral striatum of pathological gamblers showed a differential response to monetary versus erotic cues, essentially driven by a blunted reactivity to cues predicting erotic stimuli.
This differential response correlated with the severity of gambling symptoms and was paralleled by a reduced behavioural motivation for erotic rewards.
During reward outcome, a posterior orbitofrontal cortex region, responding to erotic rewards in both groups, was further recruited by monetary gains in pathological gamblers but not in control subjects.
Moreover, while ventral striatal activity correlated with subjective ratings assigned to monetary and erotic rewards in control subjects, it only correlated with erotic ratings in gamblers.

Our results point to a differential sensitivity to monetary versus non-monetary rewards in pathological gambling, both at the motivational and hedonic levels.

Such an imbalance might create a bias towards monetary rewards, potentially promoting addictive gambling behaviour.

Key words:

  • functional MRI
  • pathological gambling
  • addiction
  • reward
  • striatum

The Weight Of A Med Student’s Subconscious Bias

The Weight Of A Med Student’s Subconscious Bias
May 23, 2013

More than a third of medical students in a North Carolina study had a bias against obese people, and most of those who have such a bias are unaware of it.

Harvard’s Implicit Association Test on weight.

“If doctors assume obese patients are lazy or lack willpower, they will be less likely to spend time counseling patients about lifestyle changes they could make”

Keyword: prejudice against the obese, obesity

more on prejudice against the obese in:
Chapter 1. Introducing Social Psychology
Myers, D. G. (2012). Social psychology (11th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.


Six Words

Six Words: Ask Who I Am, Not What
March 13, 2013
Charleyy Sullivan, a historian and rowing coach at the University of Michigan, learned that lesson after an encounter when he was in the seventh grade. His six words: “Where are you from? No answers.”

see also:

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People

What Does Modern Prejudice Look Like?
April 22, 2013

Harvard psychologist Mahzarin Banaji

Implicit Association Test

The Mind of the Village