Vol. 10, No. 2, 2004 Page 1&2


Compulsive gamblers show strong evidence of brain damage, according to a study by Marianne Regard and colleagues.

The researchers compared 21 pathological gamblers, none of them addicted to drugs, to 19 control subjects. "Because gamblers are not regarded as 'brain-lesioned' and gambling is nontoxic," Regard et al. say, "gambling is a model to test whether addicted 'healthy' people are relatively impaired in frontolimbic neuropsychological functions."

The researchers found that, compared to controls, gamblers were significantly more impaired in memory, concentration, and executive functions (skills associated with the frontal lobes, such as long-term planning, impulse control, and goal-directed behavior). Electroencephalograms showed abnormal activity in 65 percent of the gamblers, compared with only 26 percent of controls. In addition, a significantly higher proportion of gamblers were non-right-handed and exhibited non-left-hemisphere language dominance, both possible signs of early brain damage. Eighty-one percent of the gamblers had a history of brain damage, generally due either to traumatic head injury or complications before or during birth.

The researchers conclude, "This study shows that the 'healthy' gamblers are indeed brain-damaged," and in particular implicates damage to the frontolimbic systems of the brain.


"Brain damage and addictive behavior: a neuropsychological and electroencephalogram investigation with pathologic gamblers," M. Regard, D. Knoch, E. Gutling, and T. Landis, Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, Vol. 16, No. 1, March 2003, 47-53. Address: Marianne Regard, Dept. of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich, CH- 8090 Zurich, Switzerland.

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