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Dopamine release in ventral striatum during Iowa Gambling Task performance is associated with increased excitement levels in pathological gambling.

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  • Jakob Linnet, Denmark
  • Arne Møller
  • Ericka Peterson, Denmark
  • Albert Gjedde, Denmark
  • Doris Doudet, Denmark
  • Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience
  • Positron Emission Tomography Center
Aims Gambling excitement is believed to be associated with biological measures of pathological gambling. Here, we
tested the hypothesis that dopamine release would be associated with increased excitement levels in Pathological
Gamblers compared with Healthy Controls. Design Pathological Gamblers and Healthy Controlswere experimentally
compared in a non-gambling (baseline) and gambling condition. Measurements We used Positron Emission Tomography
(PET) with the tracer raclopride to measure dopamine D 2/3 receptor availability in the ventral striatum during
a non-gambling and gambling condition of the Iowa GamblingTask (IGT). After each condition participants rated their
excitement level. Setting Laboratory experiment. Participants 18 Pathological Gamblers and 16 Healthy Controls.
Findings Pathological Gamblers with dopamine release in the ventral striatum had significantly higher excitement
levels than Healthy Controls despite lower IGT performance. No differences in excitement levels and IGT performance
were found between Pathological Gamblers and Healthy Controls without dopamine release. Pathological Gamblers
showed a significant correlation between dopamine release and excitement level, while no such interaction was
found in Healthy Controls. Conclusions In pathological gamblers dopamine release in the ventral striatum appears
to be associated with increased excitement levels despite lower IGT performance. The results might suggest
a ‘double deficit’ function of dopamine in pathological gambling, where dopamine release reinforces maladaptive
gambling through increasing excitement levels, reducing inhibition of risky decisions, or a combination of both. These
findings may have implications for the understanding of dopamine in pathological gambling and other forms of
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-390
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2011

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