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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2004 Apr;28(2):123-41.

Pathological gambling: a comprehensive review of biobehavioral findings.

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  • 1Academic Medical Center University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Institute for Addicition Research, The Netherlands.


In this review, findings of biobehavioral research into pathological gambling (PG) are discussed, focusing on neuropsychological, psychophysiological, neuroimaging, neurochemical and genetic studies. Neuropsychological studies indicate deficiencies in certain executive functions. Psychophysiological studies indicate that arousal in PG is of importance when reward is present. Neuroimaging studies point to abnormalities in brain functioning. Recent research into the neurochemistry of PG indicates that abnormalities exist in different neurotransmitter systems. Finally, genetic studies indicate the existence of abnormal dopamine receptor genes in PG. Methodological and theoretical factors that may explain discrepancies between studies include differences in screening and assessment, heterogeneity of gambling problems and different underlying cognitive or motivational mechanisms. Results from the PG studies fit in with recent theoretical models of addiction and PG, which stress the involvement of brain reward pathways, neurotransmitter abnormalities, the frontal cortex and the psychophysiological stress system. A framework for future studies is suggested, indicating the need for studies that integrate knowledge from different research areas, and that employ stricter diagnostic screening methods and inclusion of clinical control groups.

Copyright 2004 Elsevier Ltd.

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