School of Psychology News & events

Research Summary

Chambers, C (2013 - 2014) Can GABAergic brain stimulation promote risk aversion in gambling? Wellcome Trust. £33,572.

Our recent studies show that training people to inhibit simple motor responses can reduce gambling behaviour (Verbruggen, Adams & Chambers, 2012, Psychological Science) and consumption of unhealthy foods (Lawrence et al, in preparation). These findings have translational implications in addiction therapy but the neurobiological basis of the underlying effect is unknown. The proposed seedcorn project will test the hypothesis that inhibition training is linked to GABAergic systems in the prefrontal cortex. We have previously shown that behavioural impulsivity is correlated negatively with prefrontal GABA concentration (Boy et al., 2011, Biological Psychiatry), suggesting that prefrontal GABA metabolism may be critical for effective impulse control. Here we will test this hypothesis by seeking to potentiate the effects of inhibition training using prefrontal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a protocol that is known to modulate the concentration of GABA. We will then test whether the combination of inhibition training and tDCS causes greater risk aversion during gambling compared with inhibition training alone. If successful, this project will form part of a grant application to the MRC, and will also feed into our ongoing collaborative work with CHU-Brugmann (Brussels), where we are studying links between motor inhibition and risk-taking in pathological gamblers.