Background: Recent studies have reported deficits in measures of decision making in pathologic gamblers (PGs) suggesting an involvement of the prefrontal cortex in the pathophysiology of this disorder. As only 7% to 12% of PGs are thought to seek treatment, most of the studies have relied on few specifically selected groups of PGs recruited from psychiatric units who were undergoing or seeking treatment and therefore their results are poorly representative of the general PG population.
Methods: The present study compared decision making and executive functions among 11 PGs who were selected from an ecologic setting and 11 healthy controls.
Results: The PG group selected fewer advantageous cards on a decision-making task, the Iowa Gambling Task, and made more commission errors on the Go-No Go task, a test of inhibitory control, compared with controls.
Conclusions: The impairments in decision making are similar to those previously reported in individuals with prefrontal lesions and treatment-seeking PGs. PGs also presented impairment in tasks of inhibitory control suggesting an involvement of the prefrontal cortex in the pathophysiology of pathologic gambling (PG). The deficits in decision making and inhibition of irrelevant information observed in this study may have distinct but additive effects upon the development of PG behavior.