Gambling is more accessible than ever before, whether it’s scratch cards and the lotter or online casino games and sports betting and on sites like timeform you can do horse racing betting. For most people, it’s nothing more than a recreational activity that makes events more exciting, but there is a definite effect that gambling has on the brain that is akin to the effect of drugs or alcohol in terms of how easy it is to become addicted to gambling.
From brain imaging studies and neurochemical tests, scientists have been able to ascertain the impact that gambling has on each of us and how it affects our brain when we’re in the process of placing bets. There are similarities with the way that gambling impacts the brain compared to substance abuse, as well as the way the brain responds to cues and the way that gambling activates the brain’s reward system.
The Ventral Striatum
Gambling impacts two key parts of the brain that affect the emotions and feelings we have when we gamble. The ventral striatum is situated deep within the brain and is our reward centre. As gambling becomes more of an addiction, this area’s activity becomes diminished and less active during the anticipation of a win or monetary rewards. Scientists believe that this is because the reward pathways can seem counterintuitive to problem gamblers in that people prone to addiction have underactive reward systems in the brain so are constantly seeking more intense ways of stimulating these pathways.