Despite reasonable knowledge of pathological gambling (PG), little is known of its cognitive antecedents. We evaluated decision-making and impulsivity characteristics in people at risk of developing PG using neuropsychological tests. Non-treatment seeking volunteers (18-29 years) who gamble ?. 5 times/year were recruited from the general community, and split into two groups: those "at risk" of developing PG (n= 74) and those social, non-problem gamblers (n= 112). Participants undertook the Cambridge Gamble and Stop-signal tasks and were assessed with the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview and the Yale Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale Modified for Pathological Gambling. On the Cambridge Gamble task, the at-risk subjects gambled more points overall, were more likely to go bankrupt, and made more irrational decisions under situations of relative risk ambiguity. On the Stop-signal task, at-risk gamblers did not differ from the social, non-problem gamblers in terms of motor impulse control (stop-signal reaction times). Findings suggest that selective cognitive dysfunction may already be present in terms of decision-making in at-risk gamblers, even before psychopathology arises. These findings implicate selective decision-making deficits and dysfunction of orbitofronto-limbic circuitry in the chain of pathogenesis between social, non-problematic and pathological gambling.
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Pathological gambling