Generally, men are more likely to become addicted to gambling, said Dr. Yawen Sun, senior author of the study and diagnostic radiologist at Ren Ji Hospital, affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine of the Jiao Tong University of Shanghai.
"Men with IGD (Internet gambling disorder) have been more affected by genetic influences than women with IGD," Sun said in an email. These may be the "high testosterone levels" in male teens that contribute to some of the symptoms of gambling addiction, "such as taking more risk, being less punitive and having more aggressive behavior. ".
Sun and his colleagues recruited 32 men and 23 drug-addicted women, as well as 30 other healthy male volunteers and 22 women. All 105 study participants underwent functional MRI at rest.
This type of brain analysis "measures brain activity by detecting associated changes in blood flow," explained Sun, who added that researchers use fMRI to explore the mechanism of many types mental disorders and illnesses. She stated that she thought this approach was "useful" to explore the functional organization of the brain and examine whether it was altered among gambling addicts.
After mapping the results of the analyzes, Sun and his colleagues found essential differences between male and female games: Gambling-dependent men compared to healthy controls showed alterations in brain function of the superior frontal gyrus is important for control pulses. However, brain scans of drug-addicted women showed no alteration or difference compared to non-drug-addicted women of the same age, Sun said.
The changes in the brain recorded in his new study "could be one of the risk factors, not the result" of a gambling addiction, Sun speculated. "Future research will explore this hypothesis."
And, with only 105 participants in total, "only tentative conclusions can be drawn," Sun said.
A growing body of research explores this problem
She noted, however, that previous studies have shown that "the cortex matures later in men and does not catch up with women in prefrontal cortex areas during adulthood". In general, immature males showed lower impulse control levels than women of the same age, and their impulse control increased more gradually, said Sun.
"Many studies, including neuroimaging studies, have shown that IGD and drug abuse share similar neural mechanisms," she added. Even if no chemical or substance input is involved, gambling addiction can be considered a behavioral addiction, she says.
"I guess men are more sensitive to the effects of online gambling in the long run compared to women," concluded Sun. She thinks more research is needed to support her opinion, but it can be difficult.
"Most parents in China do not consider the IGD as a disease," Sun said. "They think that it is not necessary to do MRI."