The Frontal Cortex

Dopamine and Slot Machines

Pardon the self-promotion, but I’ve got an article in yesterday’s Boston Globe on neuroscience and gambling:

The growth of the gambling industry has been accompanied by a large amount of new scientific research explaining the effects of gambling on the brain. The neural circuits manipulated by gambling originally evolved to help animals assess rewards, such as food, that are crucial for survival. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved with the processing of these rewards. Whenever we experience something pleasurable, such as winning a hand of blackjack or eating a piece of chocolate cake, our dopamine neurons get excited. These neurons help the brain learn about the pleasure, and attempt to predict when it will happen again.

The article is mostly about the strange habits of our dopamine neurons, and how slot machines hijack the brain. Which reminds me: when is Wolfram Schultz going to win the Nobel prize?