Alternation Learning In Pathological Gamblers An fMRI Study (2011)

COMMENTS: This study shows that pathological gamblers have alterations in the functioning of the frontal cortex. Could probably be described as hypofrontality. The decrease functioning of the frontal cortex is associated with impulse control problems.

Brain Imaging Behav. 2011 Mar;5(1):45-51.
Dannon PN, Kushnir T, Aizer A, Gross-Isseroff R, Kotler M, Manor D.
Beer Yaakov Mental Health Center, Beer Yaakov, Israel.
[email protected]


OBJECTIVES: We have previously reported that pathological gamblers have impaired performance on the Stroop color word naming task, go-no-go task and speed accuracy tradeoff performance, tasks used to assess executive function and interference control. The aim of the present neuroimaging study was to explore the relationship between frontal cortex function and gambling severity in pathological gamblers.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Functional MRI (fMRI) was used to estimate brain activity of ten male medication-free pathological gamblers during performance of an alternation learning task. Performance of this task has been shown to depend on the function of regions in the frontal cortex.

RESULTS: The executive functions needed to perform the alternation learning task were expressed as brain activation in lateral and medial frontal as well as parietal and occipital regions. By correlating the level of local brain activation to task performance, parietal regions and lateral frontal and orbitofrontal regions were demonstrated. A higher score in SOGS was associated with intrusion on the task-specific activation in the left hemisphere, to some extant in parietal regions and even more pronouncedly in left frontal and orbitofrontal regions.

CONCLUSIONS: Our preliminary data suggests that pathological gambling may be characterized by specific neuro-cognitive changes related to the frontal cortex.