Scientists Find Part of Brain Responsible For Gambling Addiction
Addiction comes in many forms, but unfortunately some addictions are treated more seriously than others. It isn’t difficult for most people to understand that drug and alcohol addiction is a multifaceted issue that is as biological as it is mental, but other non-substance abuse related addictions often get ignored under the assumption there is no biologic impetus behind the condition.
Gambling is one such addiction that often gets dismissed as a simple lack of self-control, but a new study from the University of Cambridge claims to have identified the part of the brain responsible for gambling addiction, which would confirm the natural origin of gambling addiction within the body.
According to the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) when the part of the brain known as the insula becomes overactive, emotion overruns normal thought processes and people are more driven to chase their losses.
While the findings could help validate an addiction issue that is far too often swept under the rug, it also presents a target which could help focus and speed up treatment options. The researchers said in their reports, “future treatments for gambling addiction could seek to reduce this hyperactivity, either by drugs or psychological techniques.
The researchers discovered the connection by asking people with a variety of brain injuries, as well as healthy participants, to play slot machine and roulette-style computer games. They noticed when the slot machines ended in a near miss, nearly all the participants were extra-motivated to try their luck again. The only group that didn’t show this response was the group with damaged insulas.
The discrepancy wasn’t isolated to the slot games. All of the players, except those with damaged insulas, made a common mistake when playing roulette.
One of the researchers Dr. Luke Clark from the University of Cambridge explained to the Daily Mail that during gambling games, people often perceived their chances of winning due to a number of errors called cognitive distortions, such as the idea that a ‘near-miss’ increases the chances of winning, though statistically there are no different from any other loss.
The findings indicate that those with overactive insulas would be more susceptible to gambling addiction and the cognitive distortions that contribute to the drive to keep betting.