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Gambling 'gives the brain a high'

Friday 29th February 2008

Playing poker or visiting a casino to gamble could actually change the way that the brain works, new research has shown.

According to the University of British Columbia, the thrill of risking money as well as the intermittent rewards can "hijack" the brain's normal reward systems.

As the Vancouver Sun reports, reward systems in human brains are designed to help us learn to get access to essential rewards, such as food and shelter.

"When we gamble, that network is hijacked by that extraneous - that is, non-essential - reward," researcher Catharine Winstanley at the university said.

When playing poker or risking money at a casino a chemical called dopamine is released in the brain, which gives the feeling of 'a high'.

Researchers point out that even when we are not winning, the rush provided by taking a risk also seems to be part of the reward.

A study of rats given medicine to simulate the rush of gambling showed that the animals chose activities which involved higher risks for bigger rewards.

Source: News

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