Take a ride through the brain to understand how it reacts to gambling and how it affects the brain much like other behavioral and substance disorders.
The Brain and Addiction
The areas of the brain that control impulse and judgement can put adolescents and young adults on a bumpy ride towards problem gambling, and change the brain in ways that make quitting difficult.
The Brain’s Reward Network
The Ventral Striatum, the reward-seeking network in the non-addicted brain, is kept in check by pre-frontal cortex, which applies the brakes to stop thrill-seeking. Inconsistencies in applying the brakes in the immature brain can quickly result in less pleasure from natural rewards and increased seeking of unnatural rewards such as gambling or substances.
When we over-engage in pleasurable behaviors, brain activity shifts from away from the Ventral Striatum “Reward Hub” to the Dorsal Striatum ‘Habit Hub’ and new problem gambling habits begin to form. These habits change the brain in ways that contribute to problem gambling.
The development of the brain lasts through early adulthood, and the region of the brain that controls judgment and impulse, is the last to develop. This makes adolescents more vulnerable to forming addictions.