Brain Imaging and Behavior

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 45–51 | Cite as

Alternation learning in pathological gamblers: an fMRI Study

  • Pinhas N. Dannon
  • Tammar Kushnir
  • Anat Aizer
  • Ruth Gross-Isseroff
  • Moshe Kotler
  • David Manor
Original Research



We have previously reported that pathological gamblers have impaired performance on the Stroop color word naming task, go-no-go task and speed accuracy tradeoff performance, tasks used to assess executive function and interference control. The aim of the present neuroimaging study was to explore the relationship between frontal cortex function and gambling severity in pathological gamblers.

Materials and methods

Functional MRI (fMRI) was used to estimate brain activity of ten male medication-free pathological gamblers during performance of an alternation learning task. Performance of this task has been shown to depend on the function of regions in the frontal cortex.


The executive functions needed to perform the alternation learning task were expressed as brain activation in lateral and medial frontal as well as parietal and occipital regions. By correlating the level of local brain activation to task performance, parietal regions and lateral frontal and orbitofrontal regions were demonstrated. A higher score in SOGS was associated with intrusion on the task-specific activation in the left hemisphere, to some extant in parietal regions and even more pronouncedly in left frontal and orbitofrontal regions.


Our preliminary data suggests that pathological gambling may be characterized by specific neuro-cognitive changes related to the frontal cortex.


Pathological gambling Alternation learning task Orbitofrontal cortex Functional MRI 


Declaration of interests



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pinhas N. Dannon
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tammar Kushnir
    • 2
    • 3
  • Anat Aizer
    • 2
  • Ruth Gross-Isseroff
    • 4
  • Moshe Kotler
    • 1
    • 2
  • David Manor
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Beer Yaakov Mental Health CenterBeer YaakovIsrael
  2. 2.Sackler School of MedicineTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
  3. 3.Department of Diagnostic Imaging, MRI UnitThe Chaim Sheba Medical CenterTel HashomerIsrael
  4. 4.Geha Mental Health CenterPetach TikvaIsrael
  5. 5.Faculty of SciencesUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael

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