Casinos Impact Your Brain Like a Drug Addiction

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How do the lights and noise of casinos impact you...

Anyone who has ever been to a casino knows that it’s a truly unique experience. The flashing lights from all corners, loud music and sounds of the slot machines often make it so that our mind blocks out the outside world and focuses only what’s inside these massive halls.

But with two million Americans meeting the criteria for gambling addiction each year, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling, not everyone is able to play responsibly. A new study suggests this could partly be because the lights and sounds in casinos interact with the brain in a manner similar to drug addiction, which could potentially spark a gambling problem or exacerbate an existing one.


The Casino Effect

The findings, published in the journal Neuroscience, came from researchers at the University of British Columbia. They created a “rat casino” similar to a human version and trained the lab mice to play gambling-esque games. Afterwards, they recorded the rats choices between four reward and punishment gambling options when the casino had lights and loud sounds, as well as when the casino was dark and silent.

Although rats know how to avoid actions or behaviors that can result in punishment they kept on taking larger risks when their casino was filled was lights and sounds. However, their risky decision-making decreased when the researchers gave them a drug that blocked their dopamine D3 receptor. Because this receptor has a strong correlation to drug addiction, the findings suggests that even gambling addiction ma have a biological component to it.

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“I often feel that scientific models are decades behind the casinos,” said Dr. Catharine Winstanley, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia. “I don’t think it’s an accident that casinos are filled with lights and noise.”

Additional Research and Findings

Other studies have also suggested that a gambling problem goes well beyond lack of willpower. An October 2014 research project presented in Berlin found that the brains of problem gamblers didn’t release as many endorphins as the brains of those who didn’t suffer from addiction. Because they experience lower levels of euphoria, they have to work harder in order to experience the same endorphin “rush” as a non-addict would, which further fuels a gambling addiction.

If you’re looking to get help for a gambling addiction, there are inpatient rehab centers which have trained staff that specialize in working with compulsive behaviors. These facilities also work with gambling addicts to help them understand the causes and triggers that led to their gambling problem, as well as solutions for how to overcome it.

For those who prefer a less restrictive environment, gambling addicts have also enjoyed success with outpatient programs.


Image Source: Pixabay

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