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Attending to Striatal Ups and Downs in Addictions

      Altered striatal responses during monetary reward anticipation have recently been reported in pathological gambling (PG). Whereas van Holst et al. (
      • van Holst R.J.
      • Veltman D.J.
      • Buchel C.
      • van den Brink W.
      • Goudriaan A.E.
      Distorted expectancy coding in problem gambling: is the addictive in the anticipation?.
      ) reported an increased response, Balodis et al. (
      • Balodis I.M.
      • Kober H.
      • Worhunsky P.D.
      • Stevens M.C.
      • Pearlson G.D.
      • Potenza M.N.
      Diminished frontostriatal activity during processing of monetary rewards and losses in pathological gambling.
      ) found a diminished response. Leyton and Vezina proposed that these divergent results may relate to cue specificity; in addicted populations addiction-related cues increase striatal activity, whereas in the absence of such cues, diminished striatal activity is observed. The authors suggested that the playing cards presented by van Holst et al. (
      • van Holst R.J.
      • Veltman D.J.
      • Buchel C.
      • van den Brink W.
      • Goudriaan A.E.
      Distorted expectancy coding in problem gambling: is the addictive in the anticipation?.
      ) may be more familiar/salient to PG participants, whereas the predominance of text presented by Balodis et al. (
      • Balodis I.M.
      • Kober H.
      • Worhunsky P.D.
      • Stevens M.C.
      • Pearlson G.D.
      • Potenza M.N.
      Diminished frontostriatal activity during processing of monetary rewards and losses in pathological gambling.
      ) may account for the diminished striatal response. This explanation is complicated by several factors. First, the PG samples in both studies were heterogeneous in their gambling preferences. Second, the Monetary Incentive Delay Task used by Balodis et al. (
      • Balodis I.M.
      • Kober H.
      • Worhunsky P.D.
      • Stevens M.C.
      • Pearlson G.D.
      • Potenza M.N.
      Diminished frontostriatal activity during processing of monetary rewards and losses in pathological gambling.
      ) included money symbols on each trial and references to currency, wins, and losses, all of which might be considered addiction-related stimuli in PG.
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      Linked Article

      • On Cue: Striatal Ups and Downs in Addictions
        Biological PsychiatryVol. 72Issue 10
        • Preview
          Two recent papers report that problem gamblers exhibit altered striatal responses to cues that predict monetary reward, as compared with healthy controls. Significantly, however, in one study the activation was increased (1), whereas in the other it was decreased (2). We propose that this discrepancy could result from the fact that different types of cues were used. In the study by van Holst et al. (1), the cues were images of familiar playing cards. In comparison, Balodis et al. (2) used cues that consisted of text.
        • Full-Text
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      • Right on Cue? Striatal Reactivity in Problem Gamblers
        Biological PsychiatryVol. 72Issue 10
        • Preview
          The commentary by Leyton and Vezina (1) addresses how to interpret the seemingly contradictory findings of two published papers in Biological Psychiatry on reward processing in problem gambling (PrG) (2,3). Leyton and Vezina propose that these contrasting findings could be explained by differences in specific cues used. They argue that problem gamblers show enhanced striatal activation when confronted with disorder-specific cues and attenuated responses to disorder-irrelevant appetitive stimuli.
        • Full-Text
        • PDF