Ever wondered why some people are addicted to gambling? Well, researchers from University of Cambridge claim to have found the answer for you.
They have found that ‘near-misses’ triggers the win-related neural circuitry within the brain, thereby enhancing the motivation to gamble again.
The study showed that that near-misses (such as two cherries on the slot machine) and a sense of control over the game (such as the chance to throw the dice) promote gambling tendencies and may be associated with the addictiveness of gambling.
The researchers sought to determine the brain mechanisms involved in promoting gambling tendencies.
"We devised a series of experiments to elicit near-miss and control phenomena in the laboratory and used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore the brain mechanisms underlying these cognitive distortions," said senior study author Dr. Luke Clark from the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute at the University of Cambridge.
The team focused their study on the ventral striatum and medial frontal cortex, which previous research had implicated in processing rewards and drugs of abuse.
They also examined associations between the level of activation in this circuitry during gambling and a subjective measure of gambling propensity.
The findings revealed that near-misses or almost winning were associated with a significant activation of the ventral striatum and anterior insula, areas that were also activated by unpredictable monetary wins. It increased the desire to play the game.
"Gamblers often interpret near-misses as special events, which encourage them to continue to gamble,” said Dr. Clark.
“Our findings show that the brain responds to near-misses as if a win has been delivered, even though the result is technically a loss.
"By linking psychological and neurobiological accounts of gambling, these data inform our understanding of gambling behaviour within society, and by extrapolation, the capacity of gambling to become addictive and pathological," he added.
The research is published in journal Neuron.