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Clínica y Salud

versão On-line ISSN 2174-0550versão impressa ISSN 1130-5274


NAVAS, Juan F.  e  PERALES, José C.. Understanding and treating pathological gambling: contributions from the Neuroscience of Learning. Clínica y Salud [online]. 2014, vol.25, n.3, pp.157-166. ISSN 2174-0550.

Onset and pathologization of gambling are attributable to the interaction between many individual and contextual factors. Among these, learning processes play a key role. The Neuroscience of Learning has provided evidence at the behavioral, cognitive, and neurobiological levels suggesting that (1) reward sensitivity and gamblers' vulnerability to the addictive effects of certain reinforcement schedules are linked to anomalies in the functioning of the mesolimbic reward system; (2) feedback-tracking networks implemented in the orbitofrontal cortex and connected structures are involved in decision making anomalies, hyposensitivity to losses, and learning inflexibility, as frequently reported in studies with pathological gamblers; and (3), as it happens in other addictive disorders, anomalies in dorsolateral and dorsomedial structures of cognitive control could be linked to poor planning of alternative behaviors and weakening of the ability to regulate impulses and motivational states, including craving. This evidence justifies a treatment framework based on the rehabilitation of altered functions. With that aim in mind, we propose the integration of customary cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques for reduction of incentive salience, craving reduction and control, and improvement of planning and inhibition functions. In addition, behavioral economics' techniques are proposed to boost reward sources beyond monetary and gambling-related rewards, and implementation of simulated gambling to train the individual in rational win/loss accounting. The use of these techniques should be guided by an adequate characterization of patient's idiosyncratic vulnerabilities.

Palavras-chave : Pathological gambling; Treatment; Reinforcement schedules; Brain reward system; Prefrontal cortex; Impulse control; Addiction.

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