Monash University to Lead Neurological Study on Gambling Addiction

Problem gambling is becoming a huge concern in Australia, as more and more punters are becoming addicted to casino games. Many studies have been conducted to discover the causes of problem gambling and determine which treatments would be most effective. These studies usually use questionnaires and survey data to get results, but a new study at Monash University will use neurology.

The study will be led by Professor Murat Yücel, Director of the Monash Clinic and Imaging Neuroscience (MCIN). The clinic will work together with Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation and Turning Point to get to the bottom of the growing issue of problem gambling.

“Gambling is considered an acceptable leisure activity, and for most people it is. But it’s hard to ignore these alarming statistics,” says Professor Yücel. “We urgently need more research to understand why some people develop an addiction and some don’t. With this information we can develop targeted support for each individual.”

The focus of the study are the ‘reward circuits’ in the brain. According to previous studies, addictive behaviour arises when these circuits begin to malfunction. The researchers will test these circuits in people who have admitted to being problem gamblers. Neurological tests will include personality profiling, responsiveness to stimuli and behavioural patterns – using MRI scans and psychological tests. This data will give the research team a good idea of what goes on inside the brains of problem gamblers.

“At the moment we’re ‘borrowing’ information on what happens to the brain with other forms of addiction and applying this to gambling research. But this is a unique disorder, which needs dedicated research. This study will fill that gap,” says Dr Valentina Lorenzetti of the MCIN.
This is certainly a unique study, as few other problem gambling research projects have taken a direct look into the brain. We are looking forward to the results, as we are sure that they will help support programs determine more effective ways of treating problem gamblers.

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