Reward and punishment hyposensitivity in problem gamblers: A study of event-related potentials using a principal components analysis
Objective: To investigate whether the latent neural correlates of incentive processing differ between problem gamblers (PGs) and healthy controls (HCs). Methods: Event-related potential (ERP) data were derived while 16 PGs and 20 HCs played a computer electronic gaming machine (EGM) task. Psychophysiological responses to outcomes commonly encountered during EGM gambling, including Large wins, Small wins, Near-wins, and Losses, were examined using a spatiotemporal principal components analysis (PCA). Subjects also completed questionnaires that assessed their levels of impulsivity, attraction to appetitive stimuli, and avoidance of aversive stimuli. Results: Losses elicited a feedback-related negativity (FRN), whereas wins elicited a feedback-related positivity (FRP) at the same latency and topography. PGs exhibited both attenuated FRN amplitudes following Losses and FRP amplitudes following Wins. Greater P3b amplitudes were found following Wins compared to Losses. FRN amplitudes following Near-wins were significantly reduced compared to Losses for both PGs and HCs. Trends for reduced P3b amplitudes following all outcome types, and for similar P3b amplitudes following Large and Small wins, were found for the PG group. Conclusions: We provide evidence that PGs are hyposensitive to both positive and negative outcomes. Significance: The finding that PGs are hyposensitive to reward and punishment provides valuable insight into the nature of deficit in this disorder, and provides a foundation for future research and clinical interventions.