What gambling does to the brain. How the Brain Gets Addicted to Gambling - Scientific American

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If people can get themselves to work unconsciously, how does the brain really know what it must pay conscious attention to? According to research, we use these circuits to know what to attend to and what to ignore. Marc Lefkowitz of the California Council on Problem Gambling regularly trains casino managers and employees to keep an eye out for worrisome trends, such as customers who spend increasing amounts of time and money gambling.

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I can go to Atlantic City, walk around, watch others gamble, and not even spend a nickel. And of those who do, up to 75 percent return to the gaming halls, making prevention all the more important.

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The changes varied in accordance with the amount of money involved, and a broadly distributed set of brain regions were involved in anticipating a win. Resting just above and behind the eyes, the prefrontal cortex helps people tame impulses.

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A research team headed by Dr. However, this challenges prior notions which say that people make conscious choices about their everyday decision making. This in turn may help scientists understand the development of drug abuse and compulsive gambling.

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Why do so many people say that they will win their money back in the next hand? If their team loses, they are more cautious the next time.

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That may scare many people since we look at most of our decisions and behavior as conscious decisions. Drug addicts also often have a listless prefrontal cortex. Even more compelling, neuroscientists have learned that drugs and gambling alter many of the same brain circuits in similar ways. The primary response to winning, or the prospect of winning, was seen in the right hemisphere of the brain, while the left hemisphere was more active in response to losing 3.

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A gambling addict may be a huge source of revenue for a casino at first, but many end up owing massive debts they cannot pay. Dozens of studies confirm that another effective treatment for addiction is cognitive-behavior therapy, which teaches people to resist unwanted thoughts and habits. Why do investors throw good money after bad?

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He found that when people lost either amount, the anterior cingulate would become active within a quarter of a second. Similar changes in blood flow to the brain occur when low doses of morphine are given to drug-free individuals.

And today you do not even need to leave your house to gamble—all you need is an Internet connection or a phone.

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The findings in these studies show how the brain evaluates the choices made.