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J Neurosci. 2013 Nov 6;33(45):17617-23. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3231-13.2013.

Pathological choice: the neuroscience of gambling and gambling addiction.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EB, United Kingdom, Laboratory for Neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, Research Imaging Centre, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario M5T 1R8, Canada, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, 6525 HP Nijmegen, The Netherlands, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada, and State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, and IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China 100875.


Gambling is pertinent to neuroscience research for at least two reasons. First, gambling is a naturalistic and pervasive example of risky decision making, and thus gambling games can provide a paradigm for the investigation of human choice behavior and "irrationality." Second, excessive gambling involvement (i.e., pathological gambling) is currently conceptualized as a behavioral addiction, and research on this condition may provide insights into addictive mechanisms in the absence of exogenous drug effects. This article is a summary of topics covered in a Society for Neuroscience minisymposium, focusing on recent advances in understanding the neural basis of gambling behavior, including translational findings in rodents and nonhuman primates, which have begun to delineate neural circuitry and neurochemistry involved.

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