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The introduction of magnetoencephalography has made it possible to study electromagnetic signaling in deeper, paralimbic cortical structures such as the medial prefrontal/anterior cingulate (ACC) and medial parietal/posterior cingulate (PCC) cortices. Self-awareness and self-control have been attributed to these regions. To test the hypothesis that they are dysfunctional in pathological gambling with poor self-control, we studied gamblers with and without previous stimulant abuse and age- and sex-matched controls. We found that pathological gamblers were more impulsive than controls in a stop-signal task and attributed this to changes in the activity of the paralimbic network: Pathological gamblers had reduced synchronization at rest in the high gamma range (55-100 Hz) compared with controls and failed to show an increase in gamma synchronization during rest compared with the task, as observed in controls. Subgroup analysis revealed that pathological gamblers without a history of stimulant abuse had lower PCC power during the stop-signal task compared with controls and gamblers with previous stimulant abuse. Furthermore, gamblers with a history of stimulant abuse had up to four times higher power at the ACC site during rest and the task compared with controls. In conclusion, pathological gamblers had higher impulsivity and functional paralimbic abnormalities, which could not be explained by a history of stimulant abuse. In addition, previous stimulant abuse had a marked effect on the amplitude of oscillatory brain activity in the ACC and PCC, suggesting long-term deleterious effects of repeated dopaminergic drug exposure. These consequences should be investigated in more detail in longitudinal studies.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





4744 - 4749


Adult, Dopamine Agents, Female, Gambling, Humans, Limbic System, Magnetoencephalography, Male, Middle Aged