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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: 2.68). 02/2010; 181(3):165-73. DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2009.11.008
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT 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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    • "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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    • "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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    • "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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