Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rats play the odds in gambling task

Rats are able to play the odds in a "gambling task" designed by scientists to test the biology of addiction.

In the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers describe how the rodents developed a "strategy" in a timed task where they make choices to earn treats. The rodents avoided high-reward options because these carried high risks of punishment - their sugar pellet supply being cut off for a period.

To further test their model, the team looked at how the rats' performance was affected by drugs that altered levels of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin.

These are signalling chemicals in the brain that are both thought to play an important role in addiction.

Roulette chips
Researchers hope to develop treatments for "pathological gambling"

The rats were given a drug that reduced the amount of serotonin circulating in their brains. This impaired their ability to make good decisions, and to successfully play the odds.

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