Near Misses Feel Like Wins To A Gambler’s Brain

Loss aversion may be underpinned by value computations in the ventral striatum and amygdala (Tom et al., 2007; De Martino et al., 2010) and has been shown to be modulated by thalamic norepinephrine (Takahashi et al., 2013). In addition to this asymmetry between gains and losses, PT describes a value function for gains that is concave, contrasting with a value function for losses that is convex. This disparity accounts for subjects’ tendency to be risk averse in the gain domain and risk seeking in the loss domain, which may account for the “loss chasing” behavior that is characteristic of problem gamblers (Campbell-Meiklejohn et al., 2008, 2011). Although recent work has demonstrated impaired processing of loss information (Brevers et al., 2012) and aversive signals (Brunborg et al., 2012) in pathological gamblers, loss aversion is yet to be formally quantified in pathological gamblers. Postacquisition lesions to BLA skewed rats’ preference toward the high-risk high-reward options, matching the observation that amygdala damage leads to disadvantageous choice in the Iowa Gambling Task (Bechara et al., 1999; Zeeb and Winstanley, 2011).

This is why gambling addicts often bet more money, bet more often, or bet in riskier events than other gamblers. Coming up with more effective treatment for gambling addiction is increasingly necessary, because gambling is more accessible than ever, resulting in more and more people getting addicted to gambling. The good news is, however, that it can be overcome and many organizations and sites offer help for people who need it.

The wanting remains constant, but the feeling of liking what we get is reduced. Gambling, alongside the use of substances like drugs and alcohol and even activities like shopping, can become an addiction when its use becomes compulsive and spirals out of control. Signs that somebody may have a problem include feelings of anxiety or stress around their gambling habit, betting more than they can afford to lose, and gambling ever larger amounts of money to feel the same “high” as before.

James Grimes, who’s 29 and spent a decade addicted to gambling, says he can relate completely to Dr Abbasian’s explanation. And because it’s partly down to how our brains function, addictive behaviour can run in the family. “When people get addicted it reaches a stage whereby normal activities are no longer rewarding and the individual then just gambles for that buzz, that happiness, that release that most of us get naturally through everyday life.”

Consensus among experts is needed to define the most appropriate study design for future studies on NIBS in GD. Recently, scientists and mental health professionals decided to classify problem gambling as a behavioral addiction, the first of its kind, putting it in a category of disorders that also includes substance abuse. The reason for this change comes from neuroscience research, which has shown that gambling addicts have a lot in common with drug and alcohol addicts, including changes in behavior and brain activity. Studies have shown that gambling addiction functions in much the same way that drug addiction does. In gambling addicts, gambling triggers dopamine release, and the pattern of brain activity in gambling addicts is similar to that of drug addicts. Some people seem to be genetically predisposed to be at risk of substance addictions, which may be true of gambling addictions.

To differentiate these elements, Seo et al. trained monkeys on a task in which they had to select rewarding actions using either reinforcement learning or perceptual inference. While the animals performed this task, neural activity was monitored simultaneously in anatomically connected regions of lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC; caudal area 46) and the dorsal striatum . A larger fraction of LPFC neurons represented selected actions, independent of how they were selected. Additionally, DS more often represented the value of the selected action when it was selected using both perceptual inference and reinforcement learning. Thus, a hypothesis that the DS was important for action selection was not supported, but DS did often represent action values, when driven by either reinforcement learning or perceptual inference. LPFC, by contrast, appears to play a dominant role in representing and selecting actions, particularly when the selection is based on perceptual inference.

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