Brain disorder cause of gambling addiction, study shows


Compulsive gambling can be attributed to a brain disorder that renders addicts incapable of determining appropriate risk, a Japanese research group has found.

The group, led by Hidehiko Takahashi, associate professor at Kyoto University, found that gambling addicts showed reduced activity in the frontal lobe. The findings are expected to help in the development of a novel treatment for problem gambling.

In the study, released Tuesday, the group conducted game-based experiments on 21 adult men receiving gambling addiction therapy in Nara Prefecture and 29 adult men without addiction.

They were asked to choose either a gambling game of a high risk for a high return or a game of a low risk for a low return at 20 stages.

The test participants must achieve a minimum number of points to complete each stage, and they would adjust their risk strategies depending on the point requirements.

The results of the experiment showed 43.2 percent of the addicts picked high-risk, high-return games, compared with 32.5 percent of nonaddicts.

Conducting MRI scans on the brain during the experiment, the group found reduced frontal lobe activity among the addicts who took unnecessary risks.

Following the enactment of the integrated resort development law in December last year, the prospect of legalized casinos in Japan has prompted predictions that it will result in an estimated 5 million gambling addicts, creating a need for preventative measures.

“Although a main cause of gambling addiction has been believed to be personality favoring excessive risks, a brain disorder is also a cause and new therapy is needed,” the group said.