Researchers Identify Area of Brain Involved in Decision to Gamble

By Staff Writer

A certain area of the brain may be more active in individuals who make decisions to gamble, according to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience. The researchers said that their findings may help them understand disorders in which a person’s decision-making ability is impaired, such as gambling addiction.

Scientists from the California Institute of Technology and Trinity College in Ireland examined the brain activity of a group of participants as they were asked to wager on the outcome of a spinning roulette wheel. Participants generally either played numbers that they considered to be “lucky” – a strategy known as reinforced learning – or bet on numbers they believed were due to come up.

The findings showed that reinforced learning gamblers tended to have more activity in the dorsal striatum region of their brains. Interestingly, only about a quarter of participants made their bets logically, meaning they chose the number that appeared the most.

The researchers said that their results provide a new window into the mechanisms behind an individual’s decision to wager and suggest possible ways to help address gambling addictions in these people.