BEVERLY, MASS. – How do people adapt to new gambling opportunities? How much of an influence do peers have on gambling behavior? Can medications used to treat other addictions be repurposed for the treatment of gambling disorders? The National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) awarded more than $870,000 in 2012 to support 10 new research projects that will answer these questions and help to improve methods of diagnosis, intervention, treatment and prevention of gambling disorders.
“We were extremely pleased with the innovation and rigor of the studies we funded in 2012 and are proud to increase our support by more than $325,000 over the previous year,” said Christine Reilly, senior research director of the NCRG. “Year after year, the NCRG’s research program continues to grow. Results from these projects will not only increase our understanding of pathological gambling, but allow us to translate research findings for effective treatment, prevention and public understanding.”
Recipients of these grants were selected in a rigorous review process led by the NCRG’s Scientific Advisory Board, which is composed of leading independent scientists with expertise in addictions and related fields. The Scientific Advisory Board and the peer-review panels follow the National Institutes of Health criteria for scientific merit and peer-review procedures.
The NCRG’s 2012 grants were awarded for the following research projects:
“A Benchmark Study for Monitoring Exposure to New Gambling Opportunities” – Sarah Nelson, Ph.D., from the Division on Addiction at Cambridge Health Alliance, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, was awarded $28,750 to establish a baseline estimate of gambling behaviors and health within Massachusetts communities. With the recent legislation expanding gaming opportunities within the Commonwealth, the results from this online survey can be used as the benchmark for a future long-term longitudinal investigation of the effect of gambling expansion on public health.
“Sequential Decision Making and Illusionary Pattern Detection in Gamblers” – Andreas Wilke, Ph.D., from Clarkson University, was awarded $28,675 to use two novel computerized decision-making models to investigate gamblers’ perceptions when they decide to continue or stop betting on sequential events. Understanding how these patterns relate to gambling decisions may reveal important aspects of gambling behavior that could lead to new screening tools.
- “Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention for Problem Gambling” – Katie Witkiewitz, Ph.D., from the University of New Mexico, was awarded $28,129 to evaluate if mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP), a successful aftercare treatment for other psychological and substance use disorders, could be effective in the treatment of gambling disorders. Researchers hypothesize that individuals in treatment for gambling disorders who also receive MBRP will have significantly better gambling and substance use outcomes following treatment.
Early Stage Investigator Grants
“Stress Reactivity and Risk-taking Behavior in Pathological Gambling” – Iris Balodis, Ph.D., from Yale University School of Medicine, was awarded $64,797 to describe the connection between the sympathetic nervous system’s responses when an individual is either stressed or demonstrating risk-taking behaviors. Dr. Balodis and her team will examine how reactions to stress can predict measures of behavioral control and its implication in understanding addictive behaviors and responses.
“Expanding the Study of Actual Internet Gambling Behavior: Exposure and Adaptation within a Newly Opened Market” – Heather Gray, Ph.D., from the Division on Addiction at Cambridge Health Alliance, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, was awarded $141,362 to conduct an analysis of actual Internet gambling behavior in Iceland. This work is in partnership with Reykjavik University and the University of Iceland to study gamblers and gambling behavior, “high risk” gamblers and how people adapt to new gambling opportunities.
- “The Peer Group Regulates Motivational Pathways to Gambling in Youth: Implications for Early Intervention” – Jennifer L Tackett, Ph.D., from the University of Houston, was awarded $64,880 to examine the ways in which youth use motivations to seek rewards and avoid punishments in order to explain pathways toward problematic gambling behavior. The study will also examine the influence of peers on gambling behavior.
“Web-based Screening and Brief Intervention for Disordered Gambling Among Emerging Adults” – Mary Larimer, Ph.D., from the University of Washington, was awarded $172,500 to investigate the effectiveness of brief interventions as a treatment option for adults ages 18 to 25. Dr. Larimer will recruit participants through social media to assess their gambling behavior, and will customize and assess a screen and brief intervention and examine its effectiveness on gambling disorders among this population.
“Evaluating the Potential of Mixed-Function Serotonergic Compounds for Treatment of Gambling Disorders” – T. Celeste Napier, Ph.D., from Rush University Medical Center, was awarded $172,500 to expedite the discovery and development of effective pharmacological treatment strategies for pathological gambling. The project will use unique rat models to determine if medications used for other diseases can be repurposed for the treatment of gambling disorders. The medications they have selected to test are already known to be safe when used by humans; therefore, successful outcomes from the studies can be rapidly and safely deployed.
- “Characterization of Pathological Gambling as an Addictive Disorder” – Jeremiah Weinstock, Ph.D., from Saint Louis University, was awarded $168,824 to clarify the current shift of the perception of pathological gambling from impulse control disorder to an addiction. The research team will examine the biological stress response of people with pathological gambling and compare it with those who either have no addictions or substance use disorder. Because research has shown that stress responses have been linked to alcohol use disorders, this project could further explain pathological gambling’s role as an addictive disorder.
- “Creating Change: A Past-Focused Model for PTSD and Addictions” – Joni Utley, Psy.D., from VA Boston Healthcare System and VA Bedford/ Boston University School of Medicine, was awarded $1,500 to present a paper at the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies conference on a new past-focused behavioral therapy model developed for comorbid post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addictions, including pathological gambling
In 2012, the NCRG Centers of Excellence in Gambling Research at the University of Minnesota and Yale University also completed their first stage of multi-year funding. The NCRG will continue to fund the Centers of Excellence program, and the next round of funding will be announced in early 2013.
The NCRG is the only national organization exclusively devoted to funding research on gambling disorders. To learn more about the impact of the research funded by the NCRG, visit www.ncrg.org. To stay up-to-date on year-round educational opportunities and the latest news and issues in the field, visit the NCRG’s blog – Gambling Disorders 360° – and connect with the NCRG on Facebook and Twitter.