|Brain cells that contain a chemical linked to feeling good appear to become activated in situations that resemble gambling, researchers said Thursday. |
Similar patterns of brain activity are also present in drug addiction, study author Dr. Christopher D. Fiorillo told Reuters Health.
“Consequently, the current findings may help explain why people become addicted to gambling, and may point toward future treatments that break the cycle of addiction in both gamblers and drug users”, he predicted.
In the new study, Dr. Fiorillo and his colleagues found that levels of the chemical dopamine increased in the brains of monkeys when they were faced with a situation in which they were very uncertain about whether they would receive a reward.
Previous research has shown that addictive drugs can send up levels of dopamine in the brain, the researcher noted. And animal research suggests that dopamine surges when a `reward’ seems certain to come.
“The present work suggests that uncertainty about reward also increases dopamine levels,” Fiorillo said.
“As reward uncertainty is the defining feature of gambling, it seems likely that dopamine contributes to the persistence of gambling behavior,” he added. “Thus gambling may share some common neural basis with natural rewards and addictive drugs.”
Despite the inherent risks involved with gambling, people may retain these brain mechanisms because outside of the casino, risk-taking may be a beneficial behavior, the researcher noted.