Scientists Find Brain Link To Problem Gambling

For years, researchers have sought answers about problem gambling. They want to know what causes this behaviour so that they can determine effective ways to treating and preventing it. Now, researchers at Stanford University are getting closer to a solution.

According to Furturity.org, a team of researchers at Stanford University have found that people who have a strong connection between two particular brain regions are more likely to place risky wagers. Brian Knutson, associate professor at Stanford breaks it down:

“Activity in one brain region appears to indicate ‘uh oh, I might lose money,’ but in another seems to indicate ‘oh yay, I could win something. The balance between this ‘uh oh’ and ‘oh yay’ activity differs between people and can determine the gambling decisions we make”.

To find this connection, the research team used a technique that identifies neurons tracts that connect different regions of the brain and their level of insulation. They found that the anterior insula and nucleus accumbens are directly connected by one of these tracts. In participants who had stronger connections (better insulated tracts), there was a more cautious attitude towards gambling.

They arrived at these findings by providing each participant with $10 that they could choose to gamble in games of varying odds. As players weighed the odds in each game, the research team tracked the activity in the two connected brain regions. They found that all players placed risky bets, causing the cautious region of the brain to stay quiet while the excited region become more active. The more insulated the connection was between these regions, the less active the excitable region would get.

This is a ground-breaking study when it comes to gambling addiction research. While it does not offer up a final solution to the issue, it does shed some light on how the brains of problem gamblers work. It is likely to lead to more researching on the topic, which may lead to more effective

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