How Gambling Affects the Brain

Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is not under your control, hoping to win something else of value. People gamble for many reasons – to socialise, for the adrenaline rush or to escape from their problems. For some, gambling can become a serious problem. If you feel a strong urge to gamble or find that it is taking over your life, please seek help.

Biological factors can also influence a person’s behaviour. For example, researchers have found that the brain chemical dopamine is abnormally regulated in people with gambling addiction. Likewise, studies have shown that a region of the brain called the striatum responds to monetary rewards in a similar way to how it reacts to drugs of abuse.

Some communities view gambling as a traditional pastime, which may make it hard to recognize a problem. Family members of gamblers who are struggling should try to set boundaries around their loved ones’ gambling and consider seeking help themselves if they can’t cope.

In terms of physical health, gambling can increase heart rate and blood pressure, which can be dangerous. However, most people who gamble don’t experience these side effects. In fact, research shows that gambling can be a fun way to spend time and is often combined with other activities, such as eating and drinking. It can also stimulate the brain and improve cognitive abilities. This is because casino games require a great deal of concentration, which helps to build new neural pathways in the brain.