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Psychologists from the University of British Columbia, Canada, have discovered that siblings of problem gamblers exhibit the same tendency to take risks when placed in a slot machine-like environment (photo of a file)

The impulsive behavior of gambling addicts may be ingrained in their DNA, a study suggests.

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Psychologists from the University of British Columbia, Canada, have discovered that siblings of problem gamblers have a similar tendency to take risks.

The findings suggest that endless hours in casinos do not cultivate impulsive and risky traits, but they are already in your genes.

But the team said that the causes of gambling can also stem from the upbringing, which also have brothers and sisters in common.

Psychologists from the University of British Columbia, Canada, have discovered that siblings of problem gamblers exhibit the same tendency to take risks when placed in a slot machine-like environment (photo of a file)

Psychologists from the University of British Columbia, Canada, have discovered that siblings of problem gamblers exhibit the same tendency to take risks when placed in a slot machine-like environment (photo of a file)

Dr. Eve Limbrick-Oldfield and his team try to solve the & # 39; chicken or the egg & # 39; mystery whether problem addiction is a cause or consequence of gambling.

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She said: & # 39; Impulsiveness, risky decision making and altered processing of brain rewards are observed in people with a gambling disorder.

& # 39; We wanted to know if these markers represent pre-existing vulnerabilities or are a consequence of how gambling changes the brain.

& # 39; To test this, we studied the siblings of gamblers, because they share the same genetic material and environment. & # 39;

Twenty addicts from the National Problem Gambling Clinic in London with benevolent brothers and sisters were recruited to participate in the study.

They were asked to perform tests designed to measure their risk appetite, impulsiveness, and response to receiving rewards.

The findings suggest that endless hours in bookmakers and casinos do not cultivate impulsive and risky traits, but they are already in your genes

The findings suggest that endless hours in bookmakers and casinos do not cultivate impulsive and risky traits, but they are already in your genes

The findings suggest that endless hours in bookmakers and casinos do not cultivate impulsive and risky traits, but they are already in your genes

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First, the participants completed a questionnaire to assess their urgency, premeditation, perseverance, sensation seeking, and positive urgency.

Then they did another quiz that determined how sensitive they were to make a profit in the short term, even if this meant losing more advantage in the future.

An example of a question they were asked is: & Do you want £ 19 or £ 25 in 53 days today? & # 39;

The participants then completed two computer exercises known as the Stop Signal Task – to measure motor impulsivity – and the Cambridge Gamble Task that determines decision making under risk.

In the stop signal task, participants must press the button that an illuminated arrow points to.

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But if a horn sounds when the arrow lights up, they must refrain from pressing the button.

The tests to measure risk & # 39; s and impulsiveness

Stop signal task – impulsivity

The participant is confronted with two buttons and a glowing arrow between them.

As soon as the arrow points to one of the buttons, they must press it.

However, if the arrow lights up and there is a beeping sound, they must hold back.

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Cambridge Gambling Task – Taking a risk

The participant is shown ten blue and red boxes at the top of a computer screen.

The ratio between red and blue boxes will vary, but there will always be a box with a yellow token.

Participants must choose the box color in which they think the token is hidden.

A circle in the center of the screen shows the current bet value, which will increase or decrease.

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Participants press this button when the part of their score that they want to bet is displayed.

These points are added or removed from their total score, depending on their decision and where the token is actually hidden.

The Cambridge Gamble task is similar to the popular TV program Deal Or No Deal and lets participants guess in which box a prize is hidden, risking their existing points if they decide to open one of the boxes.

Finally, the admissibility of participants for receiving rewards for a slot machine-type task was also measured using an MRI scan.

The results of these exercises were then compared to a control group to see if the brothers and sisters showed different behavior.

Both problem gamblers and siblings took more risks and showed more impulsiveness compared to the control group.

But the MRI scan showed that there was no major change in the brain behavior of the brothers and sisters in response to rewards, unlike the control group.

The researchers noted that brothers and sisters of problem gamblers were particularly difficult to recruit for the study because family relationships are often tense due to gambling problems.

Therefore, the sample size for the study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology was extremely small.

Although they suggested that taking risk and impulsive behavior is in the genes of problem gamblers, they also warned that this might not be the only cause.

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The environment in which the addict grew up – an experience shared with their brother or sister – could also cultivate these traits.

However, they point to studies that have shown that more or less powerful dopamine and serotonin receptors – neurotransmitters that create a pleasant feeling during activities such as sex and gambling – are genetic.

The UK government has started betting on gambling stores to stop the rise of gambling disorders.

Earlier this year, ministers cut the maximum bet on fixed betting terminals from £ 100 to £ 2.

It followed a law of 2018 that imposed severe penalties on companies aimed at children's advertising or glamorous gambling.

Are you a problem gambler? Take the NHS test

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Score 0 for every time you & # 39; never & # 39; answers, score 1 for each time you use & # 39; sometimes & # 39; answers, score 2 for each time you & # 39; usually & # 39; answers, score 3 for every time you & # 39; almost always & # 39; replies.

1. Do you bet more than you can afford to lose?

2. Do you have to gamble with larger amounts to get the same feeling?

3. Have you tried to win back money that you have lost (chasing after losses)?

4. Have you borrowed money or sold anything to get money to gamble?

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5. Have you wondered if you have a problem with gambling?

6. Has your gambling caused health problems, including feelings of stress or anxiety?

7. Have other people criticized your bets or told you that you had a gambling problem (whether or not you thought it was true)?

8. Has your gambling caused financial problems for you or your household?

9. Have you ever felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble?

Source: NHS

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