Neurobiological correlates of problem gambling in a quasi-realistic blackjack scenario as revealed by fMRI

Department of Neuropsychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, Center for Cognitive Sciences (ZKW), University of Bremen, Germany.
Psychiatry Research (Impact Factor: 2.47). 02/2010; 181(3):165-73. DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2009.11.008
Source: PubMed


In the present study we obtained functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data in occasional gamblers (OG) and problem gamblers (PG) during a quasi-realistic blackjack game. We focused on neuronal correlates of risk assessment and reward processing. Participants had to decide whether to draw or not to draw a card in a high-risk or low-risk blackjack situation. We assumed PG would show differences in prefrontal and ventral striatal brain regions in comparison to OG during risk assessment and due to the winning or losing of money. Although both groups did not differ in behavioral data, blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signals in PG and OG significantly differed in thalamic, inferior frontal, and superior temporal regions. Whereas PG demonstrated a consistent signal increase during high-risk situations and a decrease in low-risk situations, OG presented the opposite pattern. During reward processing as derived from contrasting winning vs. losing situations, both PG and OG groups showed an enhancement of ventral striatal and posterior cingulate activity. Furthermore, PG demonstrated a distinct fronto-parietal activation pattern which has been discussed to reflect a cue-induced addiction memory network which was triggered by gambling-related cues.

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Available from: Gerhard Meyer, Oct 06, 2015
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    • "More specifically, it is unclear whether brain activation is related to outcome anticipation (i.e. when the subject was pondering potential options before making a decision) or outcome processing (i.e. the subject has made a decision and is waiting for the outcome). This aspect seems crucial as recent brain imaging studies on gambling disorder showed that, while gambling, pathological gamblers exhibit an increased frontostriatal activation toward the anticipation of high-uncertain monetary rewards (Miedl et al. 2010; van Holst et al. 2012; Brevers et al. 2015), and a reduction of cerebral activity in the brain reward pathway during the processing of monetary gambling rewards and losses (Reuter et al. 2005; de Ruiter et al. 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to examine the impact of different neural systems on monetary decision making in frequent poker gamblers, who vary in their degree of problem gambling. Fifteen frequent poker players, ranging from non-problem to high-problem gambling, and 15 non-gambler controls were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). During IGT deck selection, between-group fMRI analyses showed that frequent poker gamblers exhibited higher ventral-striatal but lower dorsolateral prefrontal and orbitofrontal activations as compared with controls. Moreover, using functional connectivity analyses, we observed higher ventral-striatal connectivity in poker players, and in regions involved in attentional/motor control (posterior cingulate), visual (occipital gyrus) and auditory (temporal gyrus) processing. In poker gamblers, scores of problem gambling severity were positively associated with ventral-striatal activations and with the connectivity between the ventral-striatum seed and the occipital fusiform gyrus and the middle temporal gyrus. Present results are consistent with findings from recent brain imaging studies showing that gambling disorder is associated with heightened motivational-reward processes during monetary decision making, which may hamper one's ability to moderate his level of monetary risk taking. © 2015 Society for the Study of Addiction.
    Addiction Biology 03/2015; DOI:10.1111/adb.12239 · 5.36 Impact Factor
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    • "Tanabe et al., 2007); inhibitory control (Potenza et al., 2003a); presentation of non-monetary reward , such as personally relevant stimuli (e.g. de Greck et al., 2010); probability and delay discounting of monetary reward (e.g. Miedl et al., 2012) as well as processing of monetary gains and losses (Miedl et al., 2012; Sescousse et al., 2013; Miedl et al., 2010; Reuter et al., 2005). These studies evaluated probability-or delay-modulated effects on monetary-reward processing or used gambling-related tasks involving risk or uncertainty elements. "
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    ABSTRACT: The neurobiological underpinnings of effort-related monetary reward processing of gambling disorder have not been previously studied. To date neuroimaging studies lack in large sample sizes and as a consequence less attention has been given to brain reward processing that could potentially be attributed to comorbid conditions such as depressive mood state. We assessed monetary reward processing using an effort-dependent task during 3 tesla functional magnetic resonance imaging. We investigated a large sample of male, right-handed, slot-machine-playing disordered gamblers (DGs; N = 80) as well as age- and smoking-matched male healthy controls (HCs; N = 89). Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). DGs and HCs were divided into subgroups (“high” and “low”) based on their BDI scores. Effort-related monetary reward processing did not differ between the complete groups of HCs and DGs. Brain activation during receipt of monetary reward though revealed a significant Group × BDI interaction: DGs with higher BDI scores compared to DGs with lower BDI scores showed greater brain activity in the right insula cortex and dorsal striatum while no differences were observed for HCs with higher versus lower BDI scores. Our results suggest that effort-related aspects of monetary motivation, i.e. when monetary output is tied to performance, are not altered in DG. Additionally, our findings strengthen the need for subgroup comparisons in future investigations of the disorder as part of a personalized medicine approach.
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    • "At a neural level, we test the hypothesis that, as compared to controls , PG will exhibit less differential brain activation according to the type of uncertainty associated with the " bet " option. Moreover, based on recent findings on pre-[9] and post-[10] decision anticipation in gambling disorder, we expect that PG will exhibit higher brain activation prior taking the " bet " option, as compared to the " safe " one. "
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    ABSTRACT: This study aimed to examine neural anticipation of monetary reward in pathological gamblers (PG) by varying the type of uncertainty associated with high-uncertain rewards. Ten PG and ten controls were scanned while deciding whether to accept ("bet" option, featuring high-uncertain monetary rewards) or reject ("safe" option, featuring low-certain rewards) a bet within situations of decision-making under risk (probability of the "bet" reward is known) or ambiguity (probability of the "bet" reward is unknown). During decision under risk (as compared to ambiguity), controls exhibited activation in brain areas involved in the reward processing (putamen), in interoception (insula) and in cognitive control (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; middle frontal gyrus). In contrast, PG exhibited no differential brain activation as a function of the type of uncertainty associated with the "bet" option. Moreover, prior choosing of the "safe" option (as compared with "bet" choices), controls exhibited activation in the posterior insula, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and middle frontal gyrus. In contrast, PG exhibited higher neural activation during the elaboration of "bet" choices and in motivational-arousal areas (caudate; putamen; posterior insula). Between-group contrasts revealed that, as compared to controls, PG showed (i) decreased neural activity in the globus pallidus for decision-making under risk as opposed to decision under ambiguity, and (ii) increased neural activity within the putamen prior to bet choices as opposed to safe choices. These findings suggest that (i) unlike control participants, a variation in the level of uncertainty associated with monetary rewards seems to have no significant impact on PG's decision to gamble and (ii) PG exhibit stronger brain activation while anticipating high-uncertain monetary rewards, as compared with lower safe rewards.
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