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Science

Brain Patterns Give Clues To Why Some People Just Keep Gambling 59

Research from several UK universities, as reported by Time, indicates that the brain activity of compulsive gamblers shows a marked difference in response to pleasure-triggering behavior, which may help explain why they have trouble stopping: [The participants] took an amphetamine capsule, which unleashes endorphins with similar effects to the rush you get from exercise or alcohol, the study says. An additional PET scan revealed that pathological gamblers responded differently to the drug. They released fewer endorphins than those who didn't gamble, and they also reported lower levels of euphoria on a questionnaire afterward. This might help explain the addictive part of pathological gambling: to get pleasure from the act, problem gamblers might need more of it or to work harder for it.
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Brain Patterns Give Clues To Why Some People Just Keep Gambling

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02246283 and http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091305798000021. Bet you this will go nowhere and the use of theraputic amounts of opiates as a potential treatment will be ignored.

  • After all, they seem to get off on losing.
    • by Teresita ( 982888 ) <badinage1&netzero dot net> on Sunday October 19, 2014 @02:03PM (#48181543) Homepage
      There's no brain patterns involved at all, it's a simple delusion rooted in statistical bias. You only remember the good times when you won, and you erase the bad times when you lost. So you think the casino is a money tree. And thus casinos pay their light bill. That's also why people play Powerball, they only hear stories about the people who hit the jackpot, never stories about not hitting it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Fwipp ( 1473271 )

        "No brain patterns involved at all"

        I am not sure you know what a brain is?

        • Of course he does. After all, after saying that there's no such thing as brain patterns he goes on to list several things that either are or are caused by brain patterns.

          Now in the interest of balance, I know what a yacht is. Lots of people do. But most of them don't have one....

          • If an erroneous belief is a brain pattern I'd like to see the brain patterns of people who believe there are brain patterns.
      • You only remember the good times when you won, and you erase the bad times when you lost.

        Casinos make every effort to enhance this delusion. When you win, the lights flash and the bells ring. When you lose, you lose in silence. In a large casino, you can hear the sounds of someone winning almost constantly.

      • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @04:14PM (#48181979)

        That's also why people play Powerball, they only hear stories about the people who hit the jackpot, never stories about not hitting it.

        Yes, there's something I find distasteful about states running lotteries for this reason. It's basically a tax on the stupid. Sure, some people play for entertainment. But I personally have known a few lottery addicts who were poor or senior citizens, and they'd shell out literally thousands of dollars each year on lottery tickets. (If only they would invest that money instead....)

        And, as I always tell people: I never buy lottery tickets, but I only have a VERY slightly less chance of winning than the addicts. In fact, anecdotally this proved true for me in the past few years -- some members of my family have bought lottery scratch tickets as stocking stuffers. I've received fewer than 10 of these over the past few years, but I've won on 4 of them... Totaling $175. The last year this happened, I had a $100 ticket (more than anyone else in the family ever got, including one person who buys tickets regularly), and someone gave me another cast off that day, and I got $20 more.

        And yet, I have absolutely no desire to buy more tickets...I took the money and enjoyed it. Same thing one of the few times I was in a casino (and the only time I gambled)... My father gave me $25 to play some slot machines with, so after spending about $7, I hit $50. I gave my dad back his $25, took the $40+ profit, and I've never played again.

        Thus, if you're going to gamble, I highly recommend using someone else's money. It's proven lucky for me. :)

        • I buy a ticket about once a year or so just to remind myself how unlucky I am. I've gotten 3 numbers matched in my entire lifetime. I find it helps me appreciate my job and steady income more when I'm getting pessimistic about things.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I don't play the powerball because I am deluded with rose tinted goggles, I know I will probably never win and statically I am more likely to die on the way to get the ticket than win with it.

        I play the powerball because I am already there getting gas for my car and I won't really notice $2 less per week out of my budget, but I sure as hell would notice the $40,000,000+ I would get if I ever win (assuming I don't have a heart attack and die after realizing I won)

        As for those people you see putting down $40+

      • I lost the powerball. But I'm only out two bucks so no big deal.
      • For the people I know who play it it's more about giving themselves hope to escape their miserable lives. It's also a social stabilizer, giving the lower classes the feeling that they have a way out.
      • There's no brain patterns involved at all, it's a simple delusion rooted in statistical bias. You only remember the good times when you won, and you erase the bad times when you lost. So you think the casino is a money tree. And thus casinos pay their light bill. That's also why people play Powerball, they only hear stories about the people who hit the jackpot, never stories about not hitting it.

        I could never be a compulsive gambler, I like active sex too much. Some people call me a dirty old man.

    • Investing in the stock market, is generally betting in a situation where there is a net win. That is, most of the time, even bad investments don't lose money in the long run, they just don't win as much as you could have one, or they have greater fluctuations than a portfolio with an equivalent return.

      Day trading is however very addictivive. even people who only trade weekly will still check their stocks many times a day. As the problem goes on, penny stocks become a big lure as they have higher fluctuati

    • That's close. Specifically, I recall another study that really gave me an 'aha' reaction: using PET scanning, scientists found that the response that problem gamblers had to a "Near Win" was virtually identical to their response to a "Win." The upshot is that problem gamblers react to the near wins as if they were a win - they end up thinking they're on a winning streak even when they're losing.

    • Go to youtube and watch any video by magic612 if you want to see losing
  • Experience (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @02:01PM (#48181535)
    As far as i know i have only known one person addicted to gambling. His personality was marked by acute depression, a desire to look good to others, a tendency towards violence and a tendency to commit serious crimes such as burglary or armed robbery. He lived in misery all his life although there were times when crime paid him rather well. His background and up bringing were awful but to me his difficulties looked like a brain disorder. Sadly his type of personality does not ask for mental health treatment. And I can see why anything short of long term observation in a controlled environment would reveal his personality. He could be charming and was good at manipulating people. It has to be some form of depression very similar to manic depression when on the dark side of the illness.
  • by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @02:03PM (#48181541) Homepage Journal

    You don't suppose people get the same response to surfing the Internet, do you?

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Sunday October 19, 2014 @03:39PM (#48181835)

    Did they always need more gambling to achieve some baseline satisfaction or have they just gotten habituated to gambling and it merely takes more stimulus for them to achieve the same effect? Have they developed a tolerance through frequent gambling or have they always needed more gambling since they started?

    I would think since lots of experiences become less appealing after a while and need to be done in more intense ways to get the same "fun" out of them that pathological gamblers may be reacting in the same way.

    Yet maybe some people are ALWAYS that way, no experience is intense enough unless it's done in some extreme way -- your so-called adrenaline junkies. It's not enough to ski down a mountain, you have to heli-ski into some mountainous backcountry in Kazakhstan riding an avalanche the last half of the run. Maybe gambling just isn't enough, they have to play for big stakes on money borrowed from a loanshark or embezzled from their employer.

    I kind of curious about the dislike of gambling. I have nothing against gambling morally, but I just can't do it even though some of the games like craps can be fun as games and have odds that are about as favorable as they come in most casinos. Yet I like most other adrenaline activities.

    • Did they always need more gambling to achieve some baseline satisfaction or have they just gotten habituated to gambling and it merely takes more stimulus for them to achieve the same effect?

      I'll take 5 to 2 on the second one.

  • ... of the brain pattern:

    $

  • Conditioning (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hairykrishna ( 740240 ) on Monday October 20, 2014 @02:40AM (#48184465)

    I have often wondered if some kind of boredom conditioning could help with gambling addiction.

    My idle thought is based on experience my brother and I had about a decade ago while undergraduates. Around this time the online casino business was extraordinarily competitive and they were offering rather large incentives to sign up and play. At this time, although not any more, the terms and conditions of these bonuses were such that you could claim them, wager the minimum amount they mandated and withdraw a large proportion of the free money they had given you. Of course, to be profitable, you had to play a very short list of games with a low house edge and stick absolutely rigidly to the optimum playing strategy.

    Over one summer this was our 'job'. Between us we gambled a cumulative total of many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even accounting for various sites where we wrote software to do it for us, we played more blackjack than the vast majority of people ever will in their lives. To start with it was very exciting as the variance ensures a rollercoaster of upswings and downswings. By the end it was just another massively boring data entry job as we'd seen regression to the mean work its magic so many times. Neither of us ever wanted to see a casino game ever again.

  • I guess because I'm good with math, statistics, and the law of probability. It doesn't take a genius to realize gambling is 100% certain to cause you to go broke. Even if on occasion you win a large amount, the over all trend is always to lose money.

What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away.

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