Facing temptation: The neural correlates of gambling availability during sports picture exposure

  • Damien BreversEmail author
  • Sarah C. Herremans
  • Qinghua He
  • Marie-Anne Vanderhasselt
  • Mathieu Petieau
  • Dimitri Verdonck
  • Tasha Poppa
  • Sara De Witte
  • Charles Kornreich
  • Antoine Bechara
  • Chris Baeken


Nowadays, sports betting has become increasingly available and easy to engage in. Here we examined the neural responses to stimuli that represent sporting events available for betting as compared to sporting events without a gambling opportunity. We used a cue exposure task in which football (soccer) fans (N = 42) viewed cues depicting scheduled football games that would occur shortly after the scanning session. In the “betting” condition, participants were instructed to choose, at the end of each block, the game (and the team) they wanted to bet on. In the “watching” condition, participants chose the game they would prefer to watch. After the scanning session, participants completed posttask rating questionnaires assessing, for each cue, their level of confidence about the team they believed would win and how much they would enjoy watching the game. We found that stimuli representing sport events available for betting elicited higher fronto-striatal activation, as well as higher insular cortex activity and functional connectivity, than sport events without a gambling opportunity. Moreover, games rated with more confidence towards the winning team resulted in greater brain activations within regions involved in affective decision-making (ventromedial prefrontal cortex), cognitive inhibitory control (medial and superior frontal gyri) and reward processing (ventral and dorsal striatum). Altogether, these novel findings offer a sensible simulation of how the high availability of sports betting in today’s environment impacts on the reward and cognitive control systems. Future studies are needed to extend the present findings to a sample of football fans that includes a samilar proportion of female and male participants.


Sports betting fMRI Reward availability Functional connectivity Insular cortex 


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Damien Brevers
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sarah C. Herremans
    • 3
  • Qinghua He
    • 4
  • Marie-Anne Vanderhasselt
    • 3
    • 5
  • Mathieu Petieau
    • 6
  • Dimitri Verdonck
    • 6
  • Tasha Poppa
    • 7
  • Sara De Witte
    • 3
  • Charles Kornreich
    • 1
  • Antoine Bechara
    • 7
  • Chris Baeken
    • 3
  1. 1.Laboratory of Psychological Medicine and Addictionology, Faculty of Medicine, Brugmann campus, CHU-BrugmannUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Research in Psychology Applied to Motor Learning, Faculty of Motor Sciences, Erasme CampusUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Medical PsychologyUniversitair Ziekenhuis GentGhentBelgium
  4. 4.Faculty of PsychologySouthwest UniversityChongqingChina
  5. 5.Department of Experimental Clinical and Health Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Educational SciencesGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  6. 6.Laboratory of Neurophysiology and Movement Biomechanics, Faculty of Motor Sciences, Erasme CampusUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium
  7. 7.Department of Psychology, and Brain and Creativity InstituteUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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