Rat Study Suggests Drugs May Help Compulsive Gambling
Researchers at the University of British Columbia have reduced signs of compulsive gambling in rats using a drug treatment and are hoping it could result in a therapy for problem gambling in humans.When gambling, humans are spurred on equally by a near miss on a slot machine as they are by a win. The rodents involved in the research displayed the same tendency and would seek a reward for a near miss almost as often as for a win.
However, using the drugs that target the D4 dopamine receptor, lead research Paul Cocker and his team were able to increase or decrease the rats’ compulsion to press the reward lever after a near miss. Cocker said, “Our study is the first to show that by blocking these receptors, we might be able to reduce the rewarding aspects of near misses that appear to be important in gambling.”
Cocker explained that while the rats can easily recognize clear wins and losses, they are less apt at identifying things in-between and hence they have a higher expectation of reward. He compared the rats to humans saying that studies have shown a huge overlap in brain responses when a gambler experiences a win or a near loss. As a result the team is hopeful that a targeted drug may be able to help aid gambling addictions in the same way by blocking the same receptors as in the rats.