Heterogeneity of Loss Aversion in Pathological Gambling (2015)

 2015 Dec 28. 

Takeuchi H1, Kawada R1, Tsurumi K1, Yokoyama N1, Takemura A1, Murao T1, Murai T1, Takahashi H2.


Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by continual repeated gambling behavior despite negative consequences. PG is considered to be a disorder of altered decision-making under risk, and behavioral economics tools were utilized by studies on decision-making under risk. At the same time, PG was suggested to be a heterogeneous disorder in terms of personality traits as well as risk attitude. We aimed to examine the heterogeneity of PG in terms of loss aversion, which means that a loss is subjectively felt to be larger than the same amount of gain. Thirty-one male PG subjects and 26 male healthy control (HC) subjects underwent a behavioral economics task for estimation of loss aversion and personality traits assessment. Although loss aversion in PG subjects was not significantly different from that in HC subjects, distributions of loss aversion differed between PG and HC subjects. HC subjects were uniformly classified into three levels (low, middle, high) of loss aversion, whereas PG subjects were mostly classified into the two extremes, and few PG subjects were classified into the middle range. PG subjects with low and high loss aversion showed a significant difference in anxiety, excitement-seeking and craving intensity. Our study suggested that PG was a heterogeneous disorder in terms of loss aversion. This result might be useful for understanding cognitive and neurobiological mechanisms and the establishment of treatment strategies for PG.