A bias towards natural rewards away from gambling cues in gamblers undergoing active treatment

Casper Schmidt*, Carsten Gleesborg, Hema Schmidt, Timo L. Kvamme, Torben Ellegaard Lund, Valerie Voon, Arne Møller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Disorders of substance and behavioral addiction are believed to be associated with a myopic bias towards the incentive salience of addiction-related cues away from general rewards in the environment. In non-treatment seeking gambling disorder patients, neural activity to anticipation of monetary rewards is enhanced relative to erotic rewards. Here we focus on the balance between anticipation of reward types in active treatment gamblers relative to healthy volunteers. Methods: Fifty-three (25 gambling disorder males, 28 age-matched male healthy volunteers) were scanned with fMRI performing a Monetary Incentive Delay task with monetary and erotic outcomes. Results: During reward anticipation, gambling disorder was associated with greater left orbitofrontal cortex and ventral striatal activity to erotic relative to monetary reward anticipation compared to healthy volunteers. Lower impulsivity correlated with greater activity in the dorsal striatum and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex to erotic anticipation in gambling disorder subjects. In the outcome phase, gambling disorder subjects showed greater activity in the ventral striatum, ventromedial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex to both reward types relative to healthy volunteers. Conclusions: These findings contrast directly with previous findings in non-treatment seeking gambling disorder. Our observations highlight the role of treatment state in active treatment gambling disorder, emphasizing a potential influence of treatment status, gambling abstinence or cognitive behavioral therapy on increasing the salience of general rewards beyond that of gambling-related cues. These findings support a potential therapeutic role for targeting the salience of non-gambling related rewards and potential biomarkers for treatment efficacy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147479
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Gambling disorder
  • MID task
  • Orbitofrontal cortex
  • Reward dissociation
  • Striatum
  • fMRI


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