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Gambling addicts never learn from mistakes

March 27, 2008 20:00 IST

Gambling is addictive and those who are hooked on to it do not learn from their mistakes and thus end up being on the down side of the luck, says a new study.

Headed by Donatella Marazziti of the University of Pisa, the study has cited that this problem could be accounted to a kind of mental rigidity that leads to harmful compulsive behaviour in sufferers.

The researchers said that pathological gambling revolves around the uncontrolled impulse to gamble, with serious consequences for the individual and their family. However, the reason behind this behaviour is still unclear.

They indicated that environmental factors and a genetic predisposition play an important role and affect chemical signals in the brain.

To probe into the underlying cause the scientists examined a group of 15 male and 5 female pathological gamblers and performed various neuropsychological tests for finding out the areas of the brain related to the disorder.

These tests included the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, the Wechsler Memory Scale revised and the Verbal Associative Fluency Test. Each of which can assess particular problem-solving abilities. They compared the results with those of healthy individuals.

It was discovered that the pathological gamblers scored well in all tests except the card sorting in which the patients had great difficulty in finding different ways to solve each problem in the test while they worked through them, whereas the healthy individuals got better with practice.

"Our findings show that in spite of normal intellectual, linguistic and visual-spatial abilities, the pathological gamblers could not learn from their mistakes to look for alternative solutions in the WCST," said the researchers.

This indicated that there are differences in the part of the brain involved in this kind of problem solving, the prefrontal region.

"These differences might provoke a sort of cognitive 'rigidity' that predisposes a person to the development of impulsive or compulsive behaviour, leading to pathological gambling," they added.

The study is published in the open access journal Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health.

Source: ANI