|Gambling as a form of entertainment can become harmful and addictive / Photo by Wikimedia Commons|
People are always making decisions every day of their life. Whether be it small decisions like deciding which socks or tie to wear, or huge decisions like which college to enter or in choosing what degree to pursue could have a huge impact on someone else’s life. The decisions that people make throughout their lives are mainly influenced by their environment since people know that their decisions could also affect it.
On the other hand, there are people who choose to make their decisions inside casinos and stake all of their money on it. Gambling is a widespread form of entertainment that may afford unique insights into the interaction between cognition and emotion in human decision-making. It is also a behavior that can become harmful, and potentially addictive, in a minority of individuals. The cognitive approach has identified a number of erroneous beliefs held by gamblers, which cause them to overestimate their chances of winning. The psychobiological approach has examined case-control differences between groups of pathological gamblers and healthy controls.
Gambling has been a popular source of entertainment for many centuries and across many cultures. With current changes in gambling legislation in the UK, its popularity looks set to continue. It promotes an illusion of control, the belief that the gambler can exert skill over an outcome that is actually defined by chance. The psychiatric community regarded pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction, a behavior primarily motivated by the need to relieve anxiety rather than a craving for intense pleasure.
|Colorful lights and catchy jingles can affect a gambler's decision / Photo by Wikimedia Commons|
In a recent report by Science Daily, they mentioned that the University of British Columbia had conducted a study where they found out that the colorful lights and catchy jingles inside casinos and other gambling sites could have an effect on the gambler’s way of making their decisions and making them more prone to develop their addiction to gambling. These findings showed that the lights and sounds have an effect on the sensory functions of individuals which could be encouraging the part of their brain that makes the decisions.
“We found that an individual’s choices were less guided by the odds of winning when the casino-like audiovisual features were present in our laboratory gambling game,” said Mariya Cherkasova, one of the authors of the study. Neuroscience News also noted that the researchers used eye-tracker technology in order to know whether if there is a connection between the lights and sounds and their confidence in winning their game. Moreover, research to date shows that pathological gamblers and drug addicts share many of the same genetic predispositions for impulsivity and reward seeking.
The Conversation also made an article which explains that electronic gambling machines in casinos are using classical conditioning to train the human brain to feel ecstatic and high when they gamble. Classical conditioning refers to a learning procedure in which a biologically potent stimulus is paired with a previously neutral stimulus. It also refers to the learning process that results from this pairing, through which the neutral stimulus comes to elicit a response. Studies also showed that gambling and drugs could change the brain in similar ways surfaced in an unexpected group of people: those with the neurodegenerative disorder Parkinson’s disease.
The Brain and the Chips
When people enter casinos they are often greeted with a lot of warm and engaging lights that can bring about excitement and sounds that are associated with reward and to explore the impact of red lights and sounds associated with rewards on decision-making and a recent piece of research has sought to develop an understanding of how these factors interact with decision-making.
Scientists and mental health professionals decided to classify problem gambling as a behavioral addiction, the first of its kind, putting it in a category of disorders that also includes substance abuse. The reason for this change comes from neuroscience research, which has shown that gambling addicts have a lot in common with drug and alcohol addicts, including changes in behavior and brain activity. Although scientists are not aware of which part of the brain is involved with the gambling addiction they identify important brain areas for targeted treatments that prevent cravings and relapse.
Much of the research that supports classifying gambling disorder with other addiction comes from brain imaging studies and neurochemical tests. These have revealed commonalities in the way that gambling and drugs of abuse act on the brain, and the way the brains of addicts respond to such cues. The evidence indicates that gambling activates the brain’s reward system in much the same way that a drug does.
When people with gambling disorder watch gambling videos or participate in simulated gambling while their brains are being scanned, scientists can see changes in blood flow in specific brain areas, indicating which areas are more active. In one study, both problem gamblers and cocaine addicts watch videos related to their addiction while in a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner. Both groups showed diminished activation in the ventral striatum compared to healthy control participants.