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Backgrounds and aims

Pathological gambling, a common psychiatric disorder, has many similarities with substance use disorders. Relapse, an important element in addictive disorders, however, has seldom been studied in pathological gambling. Hence, in analogy with previous research studies examining the role of self-report and neurocognitive measures on relapse in substance dependent patients, the present pilot study was executed.


Twenty-two pathological gamblers and 31 healthy controls took part in this research. They filled in self-report questionnaires measuring impulsive personality (Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, Sensitivity to Punishment and Sensitivity to Reward Questionnaires) and performed neurocognitive tasks measuring impulsivity, decision-making and attentional bias (Iowa Gambling Task, Delay Discounting Task, Stroop Gambling Task). Twelve months later gambling activity was re-examined.


Analyses showed that PGs who relapsed (n = 13) did not differ on self-report and neurocognitive measures of impulsivity with PGs who did not relapse (n = 9). However, both groups did differ in age at onset. Finally, healthy controls and PGs differed in some (Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, Stroop Gambling Task), but not all impulsivity measures (Delay Discounting Task, Iowa Gambling Task, Sensitivity to Punishment and Sensitivity to Reward Questionnaires).


One-year relapse in pathological gamblers is not predicted by self-report and or neurocognitive measures of impulsivity and decision-making. The similarities in performances between pathological gamblers and healthy controls illustrate the relative health of the examined pathological gamblers. This last finding supports the idea that subtypes of pathological gamblers exist so that different treatment strategies might be necessary.

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