Neural and psychological underpinnings of gambling disorder: A review

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Abstract

Gambling disorder affects 0.4 to 1.6% of adults worldwide, and is highly comorbid with other mental health disorders. This article provides a concise primer on the neural and psychological underpinnings of gambling disorder based on a selective review of the literature. Gambling disorder is associated with dysfunction across multiple cognitive domains which can be considered in terms of impulsivity and compulsivity. Neuroimaging data suggest structural and functional abnormalities of networks involved in reward processing and top-down control. Gambling disorder shows 50–60% heritability and it is likely that various neurochemical systems are implicated in the pathophysiology (including dopaminergic, glutamatergic, serotonergic, noradrenergic, and opioidergic). Elevated rates of certain personality traits (e.g. negative urgency, disinhibition), and personality disorders, are found. More research is required to evaluate whether cognitive dysfunction and personality aspects influence the longitudinal course and treatment outcome for gambling disorder. It is hoped that improved understanding of the biological and psychological components of gambling disorder, and their interactions, may lead to improved treatment approaches and raise the profile of this neglected condition.

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