A potential link between gambling addiction severity and central dopamine levels: Evidence from spontaneous eye blink rates (2018)

Sci Rep. 2018 Sep 6;8(1):13371. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-31531-1.

Mathar D1, Wiehler A2,3, Chakroun K2, Goltz D2, Peters J4,2.


Accumulating evidence points at similarities between substance use disorders (SUD) and gambling disorder on the behavioral and neural level. In SUD, attenuation of striatal D2/3-receptor availability is a consistent finding, at least for stimulating substances. For gambling disorder, no clear association with striatal D2/3-receptor availability has been unveiled so far. With its presumably negligible dopaminergic toxicity, possible differences in receptor availability in gambling disorder might constitute a vulnerability marker. Spontaneous eye blink rate (sEBR) is discussed as a potential proxy measure for striatal dopamine D2/3-receptor availability. Here we examined sEBR in 21 male problem gamblers and 20 healthy control participants. In addition, participants completed a screening questionnaire for overall psychopathology and self-reported measures of alcohol and nicotine consumption. We found no significant difference in sEBR between gamblers and controls. However, in gamblers, sEBR was negatively associated with gambling severity and positively associated with psychopathology. A final exploratory analysis revealed that healthy controls with low sEBR displayed higher alcohol and nicotine consumption than healthy participants with high sEBR. Although the exact association between dopamine transmission and sEBR is still debated, our findings reveal that sEBR is sensitive to inter-individual differences in gambling disorder severity in problem gamblers.

PMID: 30190487

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-31531-1