Pathological gambling is linked to reduced activation of the mesolimbic reward system

Nat Neurosci. 2005 Feb;8(2):147-8. doi: 10.1038/nn1378. Epub 2005 Jan 9.


By analogy to drug dependence, it has been speculated that the underlying pathology in pathological gambling is a reduction in the sensitivity of the reward system. Studying pathological gamblers and controls during a guessing game using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we observed a reduction of ventral striatal and ventromedial prefrontal activation in the pathological gamblers that was negatively correlated with gambling severity, linking hypoactivation of these areas to disease severity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive / pathology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Functional Laterality
  • Gambling*
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / blood supply
  • Limbic System / pathology
  • Limbic System / physiopathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Prefrontal Cortex / blood supply
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reward*
  • Risk-Taking*


  • Oxygen