Scientists Make Progress in Understanding Gambling Addiction
Scientists have made further progress in unraveling what causes gambling addiction. They have identified a pattern of brain activity which can lead to so-called ‘gambler’s fallacy’. This is when gamblers believe that future probabilities are affected by past events.For example, a near-miss seems to encourage continued play even though they are no different from other losses. Or assuming that after a tossed coin lands on heads that the next outcome should be tails.
In order to find out what causes this thought pattern Luke Clark and colleagues from the University of Cambridge examined patients that had suffered injuries to different parts of the brain.
They gave 31 patients two different gambling tasks, a slot machine that delivered wins and near-misses and a roulette game which involved red or black predictions. For the sake of comparison 16 healthy people also took part.
Clark said, “Based on these results, we believe that the insula could be hyperactive in problem gamblers, making them more susceptible to these errors of thinking.”
His findings suggest that the insula could be a future target in the treatment of gambling addiction. Clark added that future treatment “could seek to reduce this hyperactivity, either by drugs or by psychological techniques like mindfulness therapies.”