Anticipating a win at the roulette table has the same effect on the brain as taking euphoria-inducing drugs, according to recent research.
It was announced in May’s edition of Neuron — the national journal for neurology — that the brain acts in the same way when playing roulette as it does to taking cocaine or morphine.
This overlap in brain activity which has been identified in other studies has driven scientists to the conclusion that the brain uses the same circuitry for the ‘processing of diverse rewards.’
Dr Hans C. Breiter of Massachusetts General Hospital had this to say about the study:
“The results of our gaming experiment, coupled with findings from prior studies of the anticipation and experience of positive and negative outcomes in humans and laboratory animals, suggest that a network of interrelated structures … coordinate the processing of goal-related stimuli.”
Identifying the relevant pathways
Moving forward, the challenge will be to determine how different parts of these brain circuits affect our thinking, motivation, emotion, anticipation and decision-making.
Dr. Alan I. Leshner, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse had this to say on the matter:
‘Identifying these regions of the brain and mapping the neural pathways that process the anticipation and ‘rewards’ associated with drug abuse would be a tremendous boost to the development of medications or interventions that could block these circuits and provide other treatment approaches’
The research was conducted by Breiter using magnetic resonance imaging to map the brain responses of 12 participants playing a game of chance involving money. Scientists found in the gambling experiment the flow of blood to the brain altered in ways akin to that witnessed during an infusion of cocaine in drug-dependent subjects. Furthermore, similar effects were noted at the introduction of low doses of morphine.
What became apparent in the study was the response to winning, or the prospect of winning, took place in the right-hand side of the brain, while the left hemisphere was more active in response to losses.
An interesting study indeed and one that is sure to tickle the fancy of many neurologists across the globe. Why not conduct your own research by hooking up to a ECG reader and playing at Lucky Nugget Casino — actually, don’t!