Washington D.C. [USA], Apr. 15 : Gambling addicts, beware! A new study suggests that gambling addicts have a poor ability to assess and adapt to high risk situations.
The study was published in journal 'Translational Psychiatry'. Gambling addiction is a mental disorder characterised by excessive risk-taking despite negative results.
We noticed that gambling addicts also have higher levels of mood and anxiety disorders. Hence pleasure may not be the main goal, but rather an inability to properly recognize risk and adapt accordingly," said lead author Hidehiko Takahashi.
People make decisions by evaluating the likelihood of success based on the level of tolerable risk and then make adjustments based on prevailing circumstances.
"For example, if you are losing in the first half of a soccer match, you will likely prefer a strong defense while pushing your attackers forward.
However, if you are losing at the end of the second half, you may choose to forgo defense in favor of an all-out attack, because you would lose otherwise," continued Takahashi.
Addicts, on the other hand, are inclined toward unnecessarily risky action, demonstrating a defect in risk assessment and adaptation.
Flexibility in risk-taking between addicts and non-addicts was determined through a series of gambling tasks, requiring participants to earn a certain amount of credits.
Addicts were found to go with a risky strategy even if that choice was sub-optimal. Takahashi concluded by saying, "We observed diminished activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain involved in cognitive flexibility.
This indicates that these subjects lack an ability to adapt their behaviour to the risk level of the situation." The team hopes that their findings will contribute to a better understanding of the nature of gambling addiction, and eventually to the development of new methods of treatment.