Research Topic

Neuronal and Psychological Underpinnings of Pathological Gambling

About this Research Topic

Although pathological gambling is a prevalent disease, its neurobiological and psychological underpinnings are not well characterized. Various lines of research suggest aberrant dopaminergic function may lead to pathological gambling. For example, human imaging studies have revealed dopaminergic activation ...

Although pathological gambling is a prevalent disease, its neurobiological and psychological underpinnings are not well characterized. Various lines of research suggest aberrant dopaminergic function may lead to pathological gambling. For example, human imaging studies have revealed dopaminergic activation coinciding with the performance of gambling-related tasks. Furthermore, dopamine D2-type receptor deficiency facilitates gambling behaviors and dopamine receptor agonist treatments for Parkinson’s disease have been shown to increase patient vulnerability to gambling. Pathological gambling is often co-morbid with drug addictions, and exposure to drugs of abuse has been shown to enhance motivation to gamble. The activation of midbrain dopamine neurons, as well as their terminal projection fields, is involved with the development and maintenance of various addictions. Importantly, recent articles have demonstrated that repeated exposure to conditions of gambling-like uncertain reinforcement lead to enhanced drive to seek reward, potentially through increasing the incentive motivational value of conditioned cues. Signaling molecules other than dopamine may also influence reward-seeking behaviors in pathological gamblers. For example, stress-related alterations in glucocorticoid signaling may effect decision making and influence gambling behavior. Together, these findings suggest common pathways exist that mediate gambling, drug dependence, stress, and movement disorders, and that cross-reactivity between these ailments may potentiate disease symptomology.

The goal of this Research Topic is to further our understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the development of pathological gambling. We aim to generate a cross-disciplinary collection of research and review articles. Contributions may range in scope from animal behavioral models to human imaging studies and cover topical questions such as:
• What is the cause of dopamine release in gambling situations - Reward per se, reward uncertainty or both?
• Do gains and losses have the same impact on dopamine release?
• Is dopamine release a function of the magnitude of possible losses (e.g. scratch cards vs. casino games)?
• Is chronic stress involved in dopaminergic deregulations observed in pathological gamblers?
• Does chronic stress enhance the attractiveness of uncertain rewards?
• Do gambling-unrelated activities and environmental enrichments protect against the development of gambling behavior, as it is the case with respect to the development of drug addiction?
• How does dopamine interact with other neurotransmitters, such as glutamate and GABA, in pathological vs. non-pathological gamblers?


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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