Neuroimaging and Gambling
When we gamble, we are betting something of value against a random event. In order to win, we have to be careful, we have to have a risk, and we have to have a prize. We also have to consider other instances of strategy. If we are not careful, we can end up losing money, or not winning anything at all.
Near-miss vs full-miss effects
In the absence of objective reinforcement, gamblers have been shown to show anomalous neural responses. These responses are believed to be a result of gambling’s cognitive distortions. The question is whether these distortions are responsible for the behavioral potency of near-miss outcomes.
The rACC, a region of the brain involved in learning and decision making, plays a prominent role in processing near-miss outcomes. A recent study found that the rACC was not as active for full-misses as it was for near-misses.
Other research has also suggested that feedback processing is related to neural responses to gambling. However, this research has largely been confined to humans. There is a need to extend these studies to non-human animals. For example, researchers at the University of Alberta have investigated the effects of near-misses on gambling persistence.
Modifications to fMRI tests for gambling
The neuroimaging literature on pathological gambling has focused on decision making. This is a multifaceted concept that has been linked to impulsivity, executive dysfunction, and other cognitive processes. Its impairment puts people at risk for incorrect assessments of the long-term consequences of their decisions.
Several studies have found that pathological gamblers show reduced activity in mesolimbic and ventral striatal pathways. These pathways are thought to play an important role in emotional processing. They are also thought to play an integral part in integrating DA projections from other limbic structures. Inhibition of DA transmission may be a contributing factor to the VMPFC’s dysfunction in pathological gamblers.
A study by de Ruiter et al. found that pathological gamblers showed a decrease in BOLD responses to nonspecific stimuli. Pathological gamblers also showed a higher thalamic signal during high-risk trials.
GRCS scores are well-distributed within samples of non-problem gamblers
The Gambling-Related Cognitions Scale (GRCS) is a self-report measure which assesses gambling-related cognitions. It is used to identify the level of gambling-related cognitions in problem gamblers and also helps clinicians assess the effects of gambling-related cognitive interventions.
Gambling-Related Cognitions (GRC) are a set of mental processes underlying gambling behaviour. Recognition of such cognitions is crucial for moderating pathological gambling.
GRCS-J is a Japanese version of the General Relative Strength Scale (GRCS). The purpose of the present study is to investigate the validity and reliability of the GRCS-J in a non-clinical Japanese sample. In this regard, the current study assessed the factor structure of the GRCS-J in 93 male and 81 female non-problem gamblers. Using complete data, the authors conducted a series of tests and analyses to validate the construct of the GRCS-J.
Online gambling was used during the COVID-19 pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, online gambling was used to bridge the social crisis. Many players expanded their offerings, and several operators went digital. Some online gambling sites increased advertising on radio and television, and on social media. The study also included data from New Zealand gamblers, a country that has been heavily affected by the online gambling market.
A study examining the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on gambling was conducted by Hakansson (2020). Participants included a sample of land-based and online gambling types. He found no statistically significant changes in online casino gambling, but did find increased sports betting.
The study also examined how gambling behavior changed during lockdowns. In the study, almost one quarter of participants reported increasing online gambling during a lockdown. Other studies have suggested that online gambling may help reduce stress during a crisis. However, research on gambling during lockdowns is generally cross-sectional.