Guest Speaker: Dr. Catharine Winstanley
(Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia)
Title of Presentation: "Rats, risk and research: What can rats teach us about the neurobiological basis of impulsivity and gambling?"
Coffee/Refreshments will be available.
All are welcome!
Please contact Dr. Matt van der Meer if you would like to meet with Dr. Winstanley on the day of her visit.
Abstract: Impulsivity can be broadly defined as acting or making decisions without appropriate forethought, thereby enhancing the potential for negative consequences. High levels of such impulsive behaviours are associated with psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and impulsivity is increasingly recognised as a risk factor for drug addiction. Using animal models of drug self-administration, and tests of impulsive behaviour adapted from neuropsychology protocols, neuroscientists have shown that highly impulsive rats resemble human drug addicts in how they take cocaine. Furthermore, repeated self-administration of cocaine can likewise enhance impulsivity during withdrawal, suggesting that poor impulse control can contribute to both initial drug-seeking and subsequent relapse. Both neuroimaging and gene expression data highlight important roles for the orbitofrontal cortex and striatal dopamine signalling in these processes. Pathological gambling has recently been described as a behavioural addiction, and high impulsivity has also been observed in this clinical population. Building on the success of behavioural models of drug addiction and impulse control, researchers have begun to develop rodent analogues of gambling-related decision-making in order to investigate the extent to which behavioural and chemical addictions might overlap in terms of their brain circuitry and neurochemical control. Our own data so far suggests that rats' performance in gambling-like tasks resembles that of humans, even with respect to potential cognitive biases or "irrationality". Furthermore, different aspects of gambling-like behaviour can be modulated by serotonergic and dopaminergic drugs, paralleling some clinical findings. These rodent models of gambling processes may therefore provide useful data regarding the neurobiological basis of gambling and putative pharmacotherapies for problem gambling behaviour.