Dopamine release in ventral striatum of pathological gamblers losing money

Abstract

To investigate dopaminergic neurotransmission in relation to monetary reward and punishment in pathological gambling. Pathological gamblers (PG) often continue gambling despite losses, known as 'chasing one's losses'. We therefore hypothesized that losing money would be associated with increased dopamine release in the ventral striatum of PG compared with healthy controls (HC).We used Positron Emission Tomography (PET) with [(11)C]raclopride to measure dopamine release in the ventral striatum of 16 PG and 15 HC playing the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT).PG who lost money had significantly increased dopamine release in the left ventral striatum compared with HC. PG and HC who won money did not differ in dopamine release.Our findings suggest a dopaminergic basis of monetary losses in pathological gambling, which might explain loss-chasing behavior. The findings may have implications for the understanding of dopamine dysfunctions and impaired decision-making in pathological gambling and substance-related addictions.

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