NCRG Awards $751,951 In 2013 To Study Gambling Disorders

Nine Grants Awarded in Four Categories Ranging from $1,500 to $172,000

Oct 9, 2013

WASHINGTON – What causes relapse in gambling disorders? Is text messaging an effective way to deliver an intervention to reduce gambling among college students? Does a poker player’s level of skill impact emotional control and strategy after large wins and losses? How can the use of animal models help identify targets for pharmaceutical treatment of gambling disorders? The National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) awarded $751,951 this year to support seven new research projects that will answer these questions and help improve methods of diagnosis, intervention, treatment and prevention of gambling disorders. The NCRG also awarded two travel grants to support researchers’ participation at scientific meetings.

“The NCRG is pleased to award more than $750,000 to support new research that will advance our knowledge of gambling disorders and help find effective methods of treatment and prevention,” said Ken Winters, Ph.D., chairman of the NCRG Scientific Advisory Board, professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at the University of Minnesota. “This past year, we were delighted with the high level of applications for innovative studies to advance this field. We look forward to learning from these studies how we can improve the way we address gambling disorders in the future.”

TheNCRG’s2013 grants were awarded for the following research projects:

Travel Grants

  • “Do Pathological Gamblers Suffer from a Distorted Sensitivity to Reward?”– Guillaume Sescousse, Ph.D., of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior in the Netherlands, was awarded $1,500 to support his participation as a speaker at the 2013 annual conference of the Society for Neuroscience. Dr. Sescousse will present his research on the sensitivity to rewards among disordered gamblers.
  • “The Atypical Antidepressant Mirtazapine Attenuates Gambling-like Behavior in Rodents”– Amanda Persons, Ph.D., of Rush University Medical Center, was awarded $1,500 in 2013 to support her participation in the poster session at the 2013 meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence. Dr. Persons reported on research, funded by the NCRG, revealing that mirtazapine, an atypical antidepressant, reduced risk-taking behavior in rats and, therefore, holds promise as a treatment for gambling disorders.

Seed Grants

  • “How Skill Affects Gambler Responses to Wins and Losses”– Kyle Siler, Ph.D., of McMaster University, was awarded $27,536.75 to gauge the effects of wins and losses on subsequent play using a large dataset of online poker hands.
  • “An Animal Model of Relapse to Pathological Gambling”– David Kearns, Ph.D., of American University, was awarded $28,750 to address the lack of knowledge about the causes of relapse of a gambling disorder by developing an animal model in which potential precipitators of relapse can be investigated.
  • “The Effects of PTSD on Risky Decision-Making”– Caitlin A. Orsini, Ph.D., of the University of Florida, was awarded $28,750. Because Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may alter decision-making capabilities, there is increasing interest in the relationship between PTSD and disordered gambling behavior. Dr. Orsini’s study will use a rodent model to determine whether elevated risk-taking is a pre-disposing factor to developing PTSD-like symptoms following trauma.

Early Stage Investigator Grant

  • “Developing a Mouse Model of Pathological Gambling Using an Inducible and Tissue-specific Serotonin 1B Receptor Knock-out”– Katherine Nautiyal, Ph.D., of the Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene, Inc., was awarded $147,706 to develop mouse gambling behavioral models toward the goal of developing pharmacological treatments for gambling disorders.

Large Grants

  • “Social Influences on the Development of Risky Choice”– Scott A. Huettel, Ph.D., of Duke University, was awarded $172,358 to study the emerging perspective that adolescence is associated with increased sensitivity to rewards, which places them particularly at risk for disorders including pathological responses to rewarding outcomes (e.g., gambling disorders).
  • “Neural Correlates of Impulsivity and their Modulation by Dopamine in Problem/Pathological Gambling”– Andrew Kayser, M.D., Ph.D., of Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco, was awarded $172,500 to evaluate a novel translational (and potentially therapeutic) approach for gambling disorders: inhibitors of the dopamine-degrading enzyme catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT).
  • “Efficacy of a Brief Motivational Intervention Delivered via Smartphone and Short Messaging Service”– Matthew Martens, Ph.D., of the University of Missouri-Columbia, was awarded $171,350 to expand on his work from a previous NCRG grant. Dr. Martens will test the efficacy of a novel Brief Motivational Intervention (BMI) designed to reduce gambling among college students. This intervention will be delivered via smartphone devices (i.e., cell phones with comprehensive web applications) and short messaging service (SMS) technology.

The NCRG is the only national organization exclusively devoted to funding research on gambling disorders. 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.

To learn more about the impact of the research funded by the NCRG, 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 onFacebookandTwitter.