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Friday, January 22, 2016

Gambling Addiction: Light and Music Effect

There has been more talk than usual about gambling addiction, in the wake of the three winners of the $1.5 billion Powerball. The allure of such a prize is enough to disrupt people recovering from gambling addiction, a mental illness which takes a back seat to the more common substance related addictions. Like all addictions, gambling addiction is not well understood but left untreated it can bring people to the brink of financial ruin, and disrupt people’s lives to the point of breaking up marriages.

While there are lotto's in 44 states, the majority of traditional gambling takes place at casinos across the country. People, even non gambling addicts, will spend countless hours at blackjack tables and slot machines, hoping that the next hand or next spin will be the one that pays off. It is a dream that rarely comes to fruition, yet people will continue to invest their hard earned money against great odds of a return.

It turns out that the dream of winning big may not be the only thing gluing gamblers to their chair for hours on end. New research suggests that the music and flashing lights in casinos can lead to people making risky gambling decisions, Medical News Today reports. The findings come from the creation of a rat casino, which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

"I often feel that scientific models are decades behind the casinos," says Catharine Winstanley, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia in Canada. "I don't think it's an accident that casinos are filled with lights and noise." 

The researchers say that gambling cues are thought to have an important hand bringing about their addictive nature, according to the article. Winstanley and her colleague Michael Barrus, PhD observed 32 male rats that gambled for treats. They point out that rats usually become aware early on how to stay clear of options that are risky. But when flashing lights and noise are brought into the equation, the rats' behavior changed.

Giving the rats a drug that blocks a particular type dopamine receptor that has been associated with addiction countered the effect of the lights and sounds, the article reports. However, the drug had no effect on the gambling rats that were not exposed to the stimuli.

"This brain receptor is also really important to drug addiction," says Barrus, "so our findings help support the idea that risky behavior across different vices might have a common biological cause." 

Please watch a short video below about the research:

If you are having trouble watching the video, please click here.

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