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Biol Psychol. 2013 Feb;92(2):365-72. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2012.11.015. Epub 2012 Nov 29.

Neural correlates of the impact of control on decision making in pathological gambling.

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Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, United States.


Perceived control over a gambling outcome leads individuals to accept more and larger bets, increased risk-taking. Pathological gamblers, however, do not diminish risk-taking when control is absent, suggesting an illusion of control. To evaluate neural correlates of perceived control in gamblers, this study compared magnetoencephalography responses of 36 pathological (PG) and 36 non-pathological gamblers (NPG) during the Georgia Gambling Task. PGs exhibited greater activity in bilateral primary sensory regions. An interaction between pathology and control over the gambling task was observed bilaterally throughout dorsal and ventral visual processing streams, and lateral PFC. NPGs showed decreased activity when control was absent. Groups did not differ in response to potential bet cost. These findings provide neurophysiological evidence that PGs suffer from the pattern of risk-taking associated with perceived control, even when no control exists. They suggest that gambling pathology contributes to differential processing of gambling stimuli other than potential costs or rewards.

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