Scientists Treat Rats with Gambling Addictions
In a recent study scientists found that by blocking a specific dopamine receptor they were able to reduce gambling-type behaviors in rats. The study has given hope that there may be a potential treatment for gambling addicts.The study was led by Paul Cocker, a Ph.D. student at the University of British Columbia. In the study a group of 32 rats were given use of a slot-machine-like machine with three flashing lights which lit up when the rats pushed one of two levers. If all three lights lit up then the rats won 10 sugar pellets which were delivered when they hit a “cash out” lever. If they tried to cash out on a losing round then the rats had to wait 10 seconds before playing again.
Cocker found that the rats experienced the “near miss” effect, when an almost-win feels a little bit like a win in itself. The rats would frequently choose the cash out lever when two of the three lights flashed. Similar behavior is seen when humans play slots, near misses tends to keep people playing for longer.
The researches then blocked dopamine D4 receptors; this reduced the rats’ tendency to treat near misses as wins. It is hoped that this research can be extended in order to look at its applications to human medicine.