Cue-induced brain activity in pathological gamblers (2005)

Biol Psychiatry. 2005 Nov 15;58(10):787-95. Epub 2005 Jul 5.

Crockford DN, Goodyear B, Edwards J, Quickfall J, el-Guebaly N.


University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. [email protected]



Previous studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have identified differential brain activity in healthy subjects performing gambling tasks and in pathological gambling (PG) subjects when exposed to motivational and emotional predecessors for gambling as well as during gambling or response inhibition tasks. The goal of the present study was to determine if PG subjects exhibit differential brain activity when exposed to visual gambling cues.


Ten male DSM-IV-TR PG subjects and 10 matched healthy control subjects underwent fMRI during visual presentations of gambling-related video alternating with video of nature scenes.


Pathological gambling subjects and control subjects exhibited overlap in areas of brain activity in response to the visual gambling cues; however, compared with control subjects, PG subjects exhibited significantly greater activity in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), including the inferior and medial frontal gyri, the right parahippocampal gyrus, and left occipital cortex, including the fusiform gyrus. Pathological gambling subjects also reported a significant increase in mean craving for gambling after the study. Post hoc analyses revealed a dissociation in visual processing stream (dorsal vs. ventral) activation by subject group and cue type.


These findings may represent a component of cue-induced craving for gambling or conditioned behavior that could underlie pathological gambling.