Skewed by cues? The motivational role of audiovisual stimuli in modelling substance use and gambling disorders


The similarity between gambling disorder (GD) and drug addiction has recently been recognized at the diagnostic level. Understanding the core cognitive processes involved in these addiction disorders, and in turn their neurobiological mechanisms, remains a research priority due to the enormous benefits such knowledge would have in enabling effective treatment design. Animal models can be highly informative in this regard. Although numerous rodent behavioural paradigms that capture different facets of gambling-like behaviour have recently been developed, the motivational power of cues in biasing individuals towards risky choice has so far received little attention despite the central role played by drug-paired cues in successful laboratory models of chemical dependency. Here, we review some of the comparatively simple paradigms in which reward-paired cues are known to modulate behaviour in rodents, such as sign-tracking, Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer and conditioned reinforcement. Such processes are thought to play an important role in mediating responding for drug reward, and the need for future studies to address whether similar processes contribute to cue-driven risky choice is highlighted.

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