Neurobiology of gambling behaviors

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2013 Aug;23(4):660-7. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2013.03.004. Epub 2013 Mar 29.


For many, gambling is a recreational activity that is performed periodically without ill effects, but for some, gambling may interfere with life functioning. A diagnostic entity, pathological gambling (PG), is currently used to define a condition marked by excessive and problematic gambling. In this review, the current status of understanding of the neurobiologies of gambling and PG is described. Multiple neurotransmitter systems (norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, opioid and glutamate) and brain regions (ventral striatum, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, insula, among others) have been implicated in gambling and PG. Considerations for future directions in gambling research, with a view towards translating neurobiological advances into more effective prevention and treatment strategies, are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gambling / metabolism*
  • Gambling / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Neurobiology*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Translational Research, Biomedical*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents