Research Reveals Light and Sound Skews Gambling Decisions

Published Thursday, January 21, 2016 -
Research Reveals Light and Sound Skews Gambling Decisions

There are many studies on gambling that indicate there are factors that stimulate certain behaviours with a recent University of British Columbia study that reveals flashing lights and music in the background encourages risky decision-making by the laboratory rats. Even though the subjects in the research were rats the findings were published in the Journal of Neuroscience, with the UBC attempting to understand the nature of addictive behaviour.  In the “rat casino” model rats behaved like problem gamblers when both sound and light were added to their particular gambling scenario.

Researchers also made headway when they discovered that scientists were able to reverse the adverse behaviour by blocking a specific dopamine receptor. This may lead to a treatment of gambling addictions in people. The human brain has several individual paths that dopamine travels that the neurotransmitter reportedly and that it plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior.

Catharine Winstanley, associate professor of Psychology at UBC and Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health commented, “It seemed, at the time, like a stupid thing to do, because it didn’t seem like adding lights and sound would have much of an impact. But when we ran the study, the effect was enormous,” They continued to add, “Anyone who’s ever designed a casino game or played a gambling game will tell you that of course sound and light cues keep you more engaged, but now we can show it scientifically.”

Winstanley also said she believes it’s not,  “an accident that casinos are filled with light and noise,” and is convinced the research has revealed promise in treating gambling addiction. “We think we’ve created a better model of behaviour relevant to gambling addiction and we hope by studying what makes animals choose those risky options we will provide new insight into potential therapies for gambling disorders,”

Playing at casino games online gives the player the choice whether or not to turn on the sound but then adding alcohol could skew the games differently again.  

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