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Neuropsychobiology. 2005;52(4):206-11. Epub 2005 Oct 18.

Cortisol and heart rate measures during casino gambling in relation to impulsivity.

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Division of Psychology and Behavioral Immunobiology, Institute of Behavioral Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland.


Problematic gambling behavior is thought to be influenced by neurobiological as well as environmental factors. In this study, we investigated the relationship among impulsivity, gambling behavior, the cardiovascular system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity in blackjack gamblers. Twenty-nine males were continuously monitored before, during and after a 90-min blackjack session in a casino wagering their own money and during a control condition where subjects played cards for accumulation of points. Heart rate and cortisol levels significantly increased with the onset of gambling and remained elevated throughout the test session compared to the control condition. After median split of impulsivity scores, high impulsivity subjects revealed significantly higher heart rate levels compared to the low impulsivity subgroup. Correlation analyses revealed a positive relationship between impulsivity scores and severity of pathological gambling. Impulsivity may be one important factor mediating gambling behavior and its accompanying autonomic response.

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