Understanding the neurobiology of gambling addiction in the age of online betting


CALL: 2018

DOMAIN: BM - Public Health


LAST NAME: Brevers



HOST INSTITUTION: University of Luxembourg

KEYWORDS: Addiction, gambling, sports betting, neuroimaging, neurostimulation.

START: 2019-09-01


WEBSITE: https://www.uni.lu

Submitted Abstract

This project aims to advance our knowledge on how the high availability of ready-to-consume rewards in today’s environments impacts on the development of addictive behaviours. The project capitalizes on neuroimaging techniques in order to identify key affective and cognitive control processes that are triggered when individuals are exposed to cues that signal the availability of a reward (e.g. an opportunity to gamble). The theoretical framework guiding this research project is based on a Triadic-Process Neural Model, where there is an insular cortex “interoceptive” neural system capable of sensitizing “impulsive” limbic-striatal motivational processes and subverting “reflective” pre-frontal decision-making processes to seek and procure the reward. The present project focuses on gambling, as this activity is known to promote addictive behaviours. Contrary to substance addictions, gambling does not involve the confounding effect of psychoactive drug on the brain, and thus constitutes an ideal model for refining research on addictions. Moreover, gambling has never been so readily available and easy to engage in. Hence, this all-time gambling availability is likely to be a key environmental factor in triggering the temptation to gamble. Based on this approach, three work packages (WP) will be developed for examining the impact of gambling availability on the dynamic interplay between impulsive, reflective and interoceptive processes. In WP 1, based on pilot findings, we will identify the neural correlates of gambling availability during the viewing of salient gambling cues. In WP 2, we will examine the impact of interoceptive processes (induction of stress and frustration) on the neural signature of gambling availability. In WP 3, we will examine whether a prior session of brain stimulation aiming at boosting the reflective system (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) decreases subsequent effects of interoceptive processes on gambling cue exposure. This project will include a range of individuals, from those with non-problematic to those showing highly-problematic gambling behavior. This approach will allow for the identification of the processes that are involved in the development and maintenance of gambling disorder, thereby contributing to an integrative neurocognitive model of reward-seeking behaviours underlying addictions.

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