Background: Some neurochemical evidence as well as recent studies on molecular genetics suggest that pathologic gambling may be related to dysregulated dopamine neurotransmission. Methods: The current study examined sensory (motor) gating in pathologic gamblers as a putative measure of endogenous brain dopamine activity with prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle eye-blink response and the auditory P300 event-related potential. Seventeen pathologic gamblers and 21 age- and gender-matched healthy control subjects were assessed. Both prepulse inhibition measures were recorded under passive listening and two-tone prepulse discrimination conditions. Results: Compared to the control group, pathologic gamblers exhibited disrupted sensory (motor) gating on all measures of prepulse inhibition. Sensory motor gating deficits of eye-blink responses were most profound at 120-millisecond prepulse lead intervals in the passive listening task and at 240-millisecond prepulse lead intervals in the two-tone prepulse discrimination task. Sensory gating of P300 was also impaired in pathologic gamblers, particularly at 500-millisecond lead intervals, when performing the discrimination task on the prepulse. Conclusions: In the context of preclinical studies on the disruptive effects of dopamine agonists on prepulse inhibition, our findings suggest increased endogenous brain dopamine activity in pathologic gambling in line with previous neurobiological findings.
Biological Psychiatry Vol. 54, Issue 4, p. 474-484