Reduced loss aversion in pathological gambling and alcohol dependence is associated with differential alterations in amygdala and prefrontal functioning (2017)

Sci Rep. 2017 Nov 24;7(1):16306. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-16433-y.

Genauck A1,2, Quester S3,4, Wüstenberg T3, Mörsen C3, Heinz A3, Romanczuk-Seiferth N3.


Diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling and alcohol dependence (AD) include repeated addictive behavior despite severe negative consequences. However, the concept of loss aversion (LA) as a facet of value-based decision making has not yet been used to directly compare these disorders. We hypothesized reduced LA in pathological gamblers (PG) and AD patients, correlation of LA with disorder severity, and reduced loss-related modulation of brain activity. 19 PG subjects, 15 AD patients and 17 healthy controls (HC) engaged in a LA task in a functional magnetic resonance imaging setting. Imaging analyses focused on neural gain and loss sensitivity in the meso-cortico-limbic network of the brain. Both PG and AD subjects showed reduced LA. AD subjects showed altered loss-related modulation of activity in lateral prefrontal regions. PG subjects showed indication of altered amygdala-prefrontal functional connectivity. Although we observed reduced LA in both a behavioral addiction and a substance-related disorder our neural findings might challenge the notion of complete neuro-behavioral congruence of substance-use disorders and behavioral addictions.

PMID: 29176580

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-16433-y