Neurocognitive mechanisms of impaired decision making in pathological gambling

Abstract

Introduction:
Recently, Power et al. (2012) used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural systems underpinning the decision making performance of pathological gamblers (PG) and non-gamblers on the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT: Bechara et al., 1994). In the IGT, participants make selections from four decks of cards each associated with variable levels of monetary reward and loss.

Two of the decks result in frequent immediate high gain, but produce high-magnitude losses of differing frequencies depending on the deck, leading to a cumulative long-term loss (“risky decks”). The remaining two decks typically result in lower immediate rewards, but also generate lower magnitude losses at the same frequency of punishment as the risky decks, resulting in a cumulative long-term gain (“safe decks”). Previous behavioral studies have found that gamblers usually show a preference for the risky decks (Goudriaan et al., 2005; Linnet et al., 2011).

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