Compared to an equivalent control population, pathological players showed more brain lesions, more fronto-temporo-limbic neuropsychological dysfunctions, and more EEG abnormalities. Many studies have shown that people with gambling disorder are more impulsive than other people. They may have difficulty controlling their impulses due to reduced activation of the prefrontal cortex. When you play, your brain releases dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter that excites you.
Hopefully you're only excited when you win, but your body produces this neurological response even when you lose. When we win the game, the brain releases a chemical that makes us feel good called dopamine. If gambling becomes a problem, it can lead to low self-esteem, stress, anxiety and depression. What does the game do to your brain? Restrictions on slot machines yielded immediate results in Norway, but the gap was quickly filled with sports betting, online gaming and lotteries, and these gaming trends are even more damaging.
Scientists think that addicts, alcoholics, and gamblers with problems are likely to share similar brains that are somewhat different from a “normal” brain. But when we play often, our brain gets used to dopamine, which makes that feeling of winning difficult to achieve. Even a betting application or a game on a smartphone has enough visual ornaments and sound effects to capture the attention of users for an extended period of time. For example, research shows that problem gamblers and drug addicts share many of the same genetic predispositions for impulsivity and reward-seeking behaviors.
In the long run, most people eventually have to lower their bets because their casino funds run out. Gambling, whether it's lottery, scratch cards, casino games, bingo, slot machines, internet poker or sports betting, is more acceptable and accessible than ever. For a person addicted to gambling, the sensation of playing is equivalent to taking a drug or drinking something. Activating the brain's reward system can increase a player's desire to continue playing, especially if he already has problems with the game.
The reason for this change comes from neuroscience research, which has shown that gambling addicts have much in common with drug and alcohol addicts, including changes in behavior and brain activity. Increased accessibility, for example, through online gambling, requires greater awareness and appropriate legislation. Evidence indicates that gambling activates the brain's reward system in the same way that a drug does. Gamblers Anonymous UK: Local support groups using the same 12-step approach to addiction recovery as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Although it may seem contradictory that people addicted to the thrill of the game have a lower activation in the reward pathways of their brains, it makes more sense in terms of the reward deficiency model.