'Near misses' provoke problem gamblers to gamble more

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Washington, May 5 (ANI): Problem gamblers' brains react more intensely to "near misses" than casual gamblers, possibly prompting them to play more, says a new research.

The study has been published in the May 5 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

In the study, researchers found the brain region that responds to rewards by delivering a dose of the chemical dopamine was especially active in these individuals.

Studies have shown that pathological gambling is an addiction, similar in many ways to drug addiction. Now, U.K. researchers Luke Clark, PhD, of the University of Cambridge, and Henry Chase, PhD, of the University of Nottingham find that the degree to which a person's brain responds to near misses may indicate the severity of addiction.

In the study, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 20 gamblers. The participants' gambling habits ranged from buying the occasional lottery ticket to compulsive sports betting.

During the experiment, volunteers used an onscreen slot machine with two spinning wheels of icons. When the two icons matched, the volunteer won about 75 cents, and the brain's reward pathways became active. An icon mismatch was a loss. However, when the wheels stopped within one icon of a match, the outcome was considered a near miss. Clark and his team found that near misses activated the same brain pathways that wins did, even though no reward was given.

"These findings are exciting because they suggest that near-miss outcomes may elicit a dopamine response in the more severe gamblers, despite the fact that no actual reward is delivered," Clark said. "If these bursts of dopamine are driving addictive behavior, this may help to explain why problem gamblers find it so difficult to quit." (ANI)

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