Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Neural Circuitry Of Near-misses May Explain The Allure Of Gambling

Date:
February 22, 2009
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
Why do people gamble if they know that the house always wins? Researchers argue that near-misses, where the gambler narrowly misses out on the jackpot, may provide part of the answer.

Why do people gamble if they know that the house always wins? Researchers at the University of Cambridge argue that near-misses, where the gambler narrowly misses out on the jackpot, may provide part of the answer.
Credit: iStockphoto/Jan Paul Schrage

Why do people gamble if they know that the house always wins? Researchers at the University of Cambridge argue that near-misses, where the gambler narrowly misses out on the jackpot, may provide part of the answer.

Although the gambler loses their bet on a near-miss, where the slot machine reel stops one position from the 'payline', the researchers found that near-miss outcomes make people want to carry on gambling and caused brain activity in areas that normally process winning money.

The study, published in the journal Neuron, scanned the brains of 15 people while they gambled on a computerised slot machine that delivered occasional 50p wins. These wins caused responses in brain areas that are known to process natural rewards like chocolate, and also drugs linked with abuse. The researchers showed that near-misses (for example, two cherries and an orange but the not the three cherries necessary for a win) also elicited activity in this brain reward system.

In a second experiment performed outside the scanner, volunteers rated the near-miss events as unpleasant but simultaneously rated their desire to continue the game as higher after a near-miss. Previous research has shown that gamblers play slot machines with near-misses for longer than machines rigged with no near-misses.

The research, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Responsibility in Gambling Trust, found brain activity to near-misses in the striatum and insula cortex of the brain. These areas are thought to be involved in drug addiction, and receive input from the brain chemical dopamine (a neurotransmitter which plays a role in 'reward').

Gambling is a widespread form of entertainment in Britain, but some individuals become problem (or 'compulsive') gamblers who lose control over their gambling. The symptoms of problem gambling (e.g. cravings, and betting larger sums of money over time) are similar to the symptoms of drug addiction, but it is not well understood exactly how behaviours (like gambling) can become addictive.

This new research found that volunteers who showed a greater response to near-misses in the insula also tended to score higher on a questionnaire containing statements that are endorsed by problem gamblers (e.g. "Losses when gambling are bound to be followed by a series of wins."). The authors suggest that the functioning of the insula region may change as gambling becomes addictive.

Dr Luke Clark, lead author of the study, said: "Gamblers often interpret near-misses as special events, which encourage them to continue to gamble. Our findings show that the brain responds to near-misses as if a win has been delivered, even though the result is technically a loss.

"On games where there is some skill involved, like target practice, it makes sense to pay attention to near-misses. However, on gambling games where the wins are random, like slot machines or roulette, near-misses do not signal your future success. Importantly, our volunteers in this study were not regular or problem gamblers, and so these findings suggest that the brain may naturally respond to near-misses in this way."

The University of Cambridge research team was led by Dr Luke Clark of the MRC-Wellcome Trust Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gambling Near-Misses Enhance Motivation to Gamble and Recruit Win-Related Brain Circuitry. Neuron, 12 February 2009

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "Neural Circuitry Of Near-misses May Explain The Allure Of Gambling." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090211122130.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2009, February 22). Neural Circuitry Of Near-misses May Explain The Allure Of Gambling. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090211122130.htm
University of Cambridge. "Neural Circuitry Of Near-misses May Explain The Allure Of Gambling." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090211122130.htm (accessed August 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says

Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) Researchers found an improvement in memory and learning function in subjects who received electric pulses to their brains. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Scientists are tripping the elderly on purpose in a Chicago lab in an effort to better prevent seniors from falling and injuring themselves in real life. (Aug.28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins