2017/2018

Major Grants

From Motivation to Compulsion: the Neural Bases of Disordered Gambling Explored in a Rodent Model (#84)

Project Approved 2017-18

Dr. David R. Euston (Principal Investigator)
Department of Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge
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Description 

This project proposes to model gambling addiction in rats via extensive exposure to a slot-machine-like reward schedule, resulting in an "addicted" animal who cannot stop responding. We propose to map changes in the brain's dopamine system and test the role of different prefrontal regions in the genesis of compulsive gambling.

Time frame: January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2020

Our primary goal this year was to determine the changes to dopamine receptor density that occur when rats are exposed to either a gambling-like reward schedule or the drug pramipexole, which is known to increase impulsivity in rats and humans and cause dramatic increases in gambling addiction in human subjects. We finished data collection on an experiment in which rats where exposed to either a gambling- or fixed-reward schedule on or off chronic pramipexole. Data analysis occupied the next several months. We found that pramipexole administration significantly increased several indices of behavioural addiction but that this effect was particularly pronounced in animals trained on the non-gambling-like schedule of reinforcement, contrary to our expectations. In particular, pramipexole caused a dramatic increase in response rates, suggesting increased motivation. In order to assess changes in dopamine receptor density, we have been doing the preliminary lab work to establish the correct antibodies, concentrations, and protocols for observing clear dopamine receptor staining. This proved trickier than expected, especially for the dopamine D3 receptor. We have now tested 5 dopamine D3 receptor-specific antibodies. After many failures to replicate the expected innate distribution of dopamine receptors in the brain, we finally have found a set of antibodies and protocols that seem to work. Our next step will be to apply our antibody stains for D2 and D3 (and possibly D4) receptors to the brains collected from the aforementioned behavioral study. We will then look for correlations between receptor density in different brain regions and the strength of motivation and compulsion. Ultimately, this should point us to the brain regions most critical to the development of addiction.

Unexpectedly, we happen to have a cohort of Wistar-Kyoto rats (WKY), a rat depression model, and normal Wistar (WIS) controls in the lab for another study. Although it was not in our original proposal, we decided to test if "depressed" animals would respond more compulsively on gambling-like reward schedules. We compared 18 WKY rats 18 WIS controls. Animals received reward for lever pressing on fixed- or random-ratio schedules. After four weeks, they were assessed using a battery of "addiction" tests. Our "depressive" WKY rats, although generally more sluggish, responded more when cues predicted reward unavailability and persevered for longer despite negative consequences. This may suggest increased compulsivity, although it was not related to the schedule of reinforcement. Hence, depression makes rats more likely to display addiction-like behaviors, but this addiction is not specifically triggered by a gambling reward schedule.

Our research seeks to uncover the "basic personality, social, cognitive and neurological mechanisms of gambling and disordered gambling." In particular, we are developing an pre-clinical model of gambling addiction which will hopefully be useful in uncovering the brain circuits and pharmacology of gambling addiction in humans. Ultimately, this knowledge may contribute to the development of new brain scanning techniques to detect the severity of gambling addiction and/or pharmacological treatments to alleviate the urge to gambling.

Our goal this year was to examine changes in dopamine receptor density in different brain regions that might be associated with increased motivation and/or compulsion. In practice, the bulk of our effort went into testing and refining protocols for dopamine receptor staining, allowing us to visualize receptor density for three different receptor sub-types (D2, D3, and D4) in brain slices. We are moving forward with the final study that will apply these newly developed protocols to visualize receptor density in a large cohort of rats that have already been run through our behavioral gambling study. The results of this study will be novel and potentially have a high impact in the preclinical research area. Few studies have looked at changes in dopamine receptors in animal models of gambling and none have examined more than one receptor subtype nor sought to tied density changes to motivational and compulsive measures.

Laskowski, C. S., Dorchak, D. L., Ward, K., Christensen, D. R., & Euston, D. R. (2019). Can slot-machine reward schedules induce gambling addiction in rats? Journal of Gambling Studies. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-019-09852-1

Dorchak, D., Laskowski, C., & Euston, D. (2019). Compulsion without motivation: the effects of slot machine-like schedules on a depressive animal model. Presented at the NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Laskowski, C., Dorchak, D., Ward, K., & Euston, D. (2019). Dopamine agonist administration increases addiction-like behaviours on both gambling and non-gambling reward schedules in a rodent model. Presented at the NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, Las Vegas, Nevada.  

Laskowski, CS, Ward, KM, Dorchak, DL, and Euston, DR. (2019). Pramipexole administration induces behavioral addiction in rats by altering dopamine-mediated reward systems. Poster presented at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute Annual Meeting. Banff, Alberta.  March 28-30.

Dorchak, DL, Laskowski, CS, Morris, LM, and Euston, DR (2019). Pramipexole administration induces behavioral addiction in rats by altering dopamine-mediated reward systems. Poster presented at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute Annual Meeting. Banff, Alberta.  March 28-30.

Ward, KM, Laskowski, CS, Dorchak, DL, Christensen, DR, and Euston, DR.  (2019) Effects of Stress and Gender on Impulsivity in Rats. Poster presented at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute Annual Meeting. Banff, Alberta.  March 28-30.

Dorchak, D., Laskowski, C., Morris, L., & Euston, DR. (2019). Are depressed rats more likely to become compulsive rats? Presented at the Meeting of the Minds Conference, Lethbridge, Alberta.

Laskowski, C., Ward, K., Dorchak, D., & Euston, DR. (2019). Pramipexole lifts all boats equally on the seas of behavioral addiction. Presented at the Meeting of the Minds Conference, Lethbridge, Alberta.

Euston, DR (2018). Gambling Rats: Motivation but not Compulsion. Talk given at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute's Annual Conference. Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta. April 12-14, 2018.

Morris, LS, Laskowski, CS, Dorchak, DL, Euston, DR (2018). Are depressed rats more succeptible to behavioral addiction? Poster and talk presented at the Undergraduate Neuroscience Conference. University of Alberta, Edmonton. August 17-19.

Guyn, CM, Ward, KM, Euston, DR (2018). How do you find impulsive rats? Factors that influence the measurements of delay discounting. Poster presented at the Undergraduate Neuroscience Conference. University of Alberta, Edmonton. August 17-19.

Laskowski, CS, Ward, KM, Dorchak, DL, Christensen, DR, Euston, DR (2017). Does Chronic Dopamine Agonist Administration Generate Gambling Addiction in Rats? Poster presented at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute Conference - April 12-14, Banff, AB.

Dorchak, DL, Ward, KM, Laskowski, CS, Christensen, DR, Euston, DR (2017). Are Impulsive Rats More Sensitive to Gambling Reward Schedules? Poster presented at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute Conference - April 12-14, Banff, AB.

Burchan, MS, Ward, KM, Laskowski, CS, Dorchak, DL, Euston, DR (2017). Measuring Impulsivity in Rats - Is There a Better Way? Poster presented at the Undergraduate Neuroscience Conference. University of Alberta, Edmonton. August 18-20.


Pop-up messages for Internet gambling: An experimental study examining the efficacy of fear appeals (#83)

Project Approved 2017-18

Dr. David C Hodgins (Principal Investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary
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Dr. Matthew J. Rockloff (Co-investigator)
School of Human, Health and Social Sciences, Central Queensland University
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Dr. Seema Mutti-Packer (Co-principal Investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary

Dr. Michael J. A. Wohl (Co-investigator)
Department of Psychology, Carleton University
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Mr. Hyoun S. Kim (Co-investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary
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Dr. Daniel S. McGrath (Co-investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary
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Description

Internet gambling is a significant public health concern, and recent evidence suggests that Internet gamblers are at greater risk for developing gambling problems. There is a critical need for research focused on prevention and harm-minimization strategies specific to Internet gamblers. Pop-up warning messages that inform consumers and interrupt continuous play have the potential to be an effective tool for prevention and harm minimization in disordered gambling.

Time frame: December 1, 2017 to November 30, 2019 (extended to June 30, 2020; extended to December 31, 2020).

This project is in progress, and data collection is proceeding well. A number of trainees have been involved, including Seema Mutti-Packer (post doc), Andrew Kim (doctoral), Emma Ritchie (MSc), and Diandra Leslie (BSc). The project has provided training in eye tracking methodology to these students, and also to Dr. Tovar, who was visiting our labs as part of our Team building grant with University of Sao Paulo. There are proposals in progress at the University of Sao Paulo to use eye tracing with individuals with gambling disorder as a result of this exchange. Finally, this project has had the active input from Dr. Rockloff (Central Queensland University) and Dr. Wohl (Carleton University), which has solidified collaborations among our labs.

The impact of pop-up warning messages continues to be an important research question, given the increasing interest in minimizing gambling-related harm. This project focuses on pop-ups in a gambling app, which is also timely given the provinces move to offering online gambling.


Gambling in the Workplace: Characteristics and Experiences (#82)

Project Approved 2017-18

Dr. Rebecca Hudson Breen (Principal Investigator)
Faculty of Education, University of Alberta
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Dr. James Sanders (Co-principal Investigator)
Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Lethbridge
Google Scholar Profile

Description

This project will investigate the characteristics and experiences of individuals who engage in gambling in the workplace, including the relationship between problem gambling and gambling in the workplace, the role of internet gambling in workplace gambling, and the potential mediating role of job satisfaction in workplace problem gambling.

Time frame: July 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019; extension to June 30, 2020; extension to December 31, 2020; Extension to June 30, 2021

This project will investigate the characteristics and experiences of individuals who engage in gambling in the workplace, including the relationship between problem gambling and gambling in the workplace, the role of internet gambling in workplace gambling, and the potential mediating role of job satisfaction in workplace problem gambling.

To date, our main impact has been in providing descriptive data regarding the nature of workplace gambling, types of gambling, and proportion of individuals who engage in workplace gambling who meet criteria of problematic gambling behavior. While we were not able to present in person at the AGRI conference, our graduate research assistant, Lauren Trafford, recorded a narrated presentation to accompany the online poster presentation. Our first manuscript, presenting descriptive results, is nearing completion, with drafts of articles presenting a more thorough examination of qualitative findings, as well as a paper presenting the fully integrated results of both qualitative and quantitative findings.

Hudson Breen, R. (2020). Gambling in the workplace: Characteristics and experiences. Alberta Gambling Research Institute Conference Research Poster [Online]. An online video by graduate student Lauren Trafford describes the project and preliminary findings.