Even though it afflicts nearly as many people as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, gambling disorders are given less attention than other mental illnesses and little is understood about it. Pharmaceutical drug treatments for the disorder do not exist, and the treatments sufferers do receive do not target the disorder itself. Previously, cannabis was thought to have been a hazard for those who suffer from gambling disorders, but in a new research from Canada and Boston now suggest synthetic cannabinoid agonists actually improve "choice performance" in rats who suffer from gambling disorders.
In the study, researchers administered a gambling test on rats analogous to experts who identify the behavior of compulsive gamblers. After the rats received synthetic cannabinoids, researchers re-assessed their decision making skills through the gambling test and found that rats with gambling disorders made more advantageous decisions. To understand rat gambling, rats select one of four "response holes" linked to a different probability of food payout. Rats who continue to select high-risk and high-payout but less favorable holes are categorized as having a gambling disorder. This new research is not only important in discovering potential treatments for gambling disorders, but it also helps to uncover important clues into understanding the addiction's neurological pathology.
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