Scientists Create a Casino for Rats to Study Gambling Addiction

Scientists have taken a significant step towards understanding the chemical and scientific nature of gambling addiction. By setting up a rat casino, they are attempting to find new ways to treat compulsive gambling problems. Initial results have shown that the dopamine receptors in the brain must be blocked in order to beat this addiction.

Casino for RatsThis research was conducted by creating slot machine by situations for rodents to try out. The rats would gamble for sugar pellets by using a slot machine with three flashing lights and two levers. Many of their reactions, especially to near misses and wins, were similar to the reactions of humans when they are using slot machines.

The team from the University of British Columbia are focusing on the dopamine D4 receptor, which is said to be at the center of many behavioral disorders. When the rats at the rat casino were treated with dopamine, their behavior was noticeably different.

Paul Cocker is the leading author of this study. Teh PhD student from UBC had the following to say about this research:

“More work is needed, but our findings offer hope for the treatment of gambling addiction, which is a growing public health concern. Pathological gambling is now seen as a behavioral addiction in the same way as alcohol or drug addictions. However, we know so little about how to treat gambling addiction.
This study is the first step in showing that by blocking certain brain receptors we will be able to reduce the rewarding aspects of near-misses that lead to more gambling. These findings shed new light on the brain processes involved with gambling and gambling addictions.”

The study took 16 months to complete, with 32 lab rats used in the process. The lab rats were introduced to the small and easy to use slot machine. One lights combination signaled a win and the other combination signaled a loss. The rats that got the winning combination were rewarded with ten sugar pellets.

For more information about this study, visit this link on the UBC website.