Stroop performance in pathological gamblers

Psychiatry Res. 2006 May 30;142(1):1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2005.07.027. Epub 2006 Apr 19.


Pathological gambling is a relatively prevalent psychiatric disorder that typically leads to severe family, social, legal, and occupational problems and is associated with a high rate of suicide attempts. Understanding the neurobiological basis of pathological gambling is a current focus of research, and emerging data have demonstrated that pathological gamblers may have impaired decision-making because of an inability to inhibit irrelevant information. In this study, we examined pathological gamblers by using the Stroop Color-Word Test, a neurocognitive task used to assess interference control. The "reverse" variant of the Stroop Color-Word Test was administered to a cohort of medication-free pathological gamblers (n=62) and a cohort of age-matched controls (n=83). In the reverse variant of the Stroop task, subjects are asked to read the meaning of the word rather than name the ink color. The reverse Stroop task was chosen because it highly discriminates ability to inhibit interference in a population of psychiatric patients. In our study, performance on the reverse Stroop task in the pathological gamblers was significantly slower and less accurate than in the healthy subjects. A new finding in our study was that for pathological gamblers, the average reaction time in the neutral condition (where the color names are displayed in black letters) was slower than the average reaction time in the incongruent condition (where the meaning of the color name and the color of the printed letters are different). This controlled study extends previous findings by showing that performance on the Stroop task is impaired in a sample of medication-free pathological gamblers.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Gambling / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests