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Decreased cognitive control over the urge to be involved in gambling activities is a core feature of gambling disorder (GD). Cognitive control can be conceptualized as the sum of high-order cognitive faculties interacting in the achievement of goal-oriented behaviors. As such, cognitive control can be differentiated into several cognitive sub-processes, such as response inhibition, conflict monitoring, decision-making and cognitive flexibility, all of which prove to be pivotal in GD clinical phenomenology.
Over the past few years, several studies and reviews have indicated a lack of cognitive control in GD through self-report questionnaires and neurocognitive tasks. Conversely, there are only a limited number of neuroimaging studies, which investigate the neural mechanisms underlying diminished cognitive control in GD.
This research aims to systematically review functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies that target cognitive control in GD.
A literature search was conducted in order to find appropriate published articles on fMRI studies in GD.
Fourteen fMRI studies were included. Depending on which neurocognitive task was employed, the studies were divided into five different sections: conflict monitoring, response inhibition, delay discounting, cognitive flexibility and decision-making.
Impaired activity in prefrontal cortex may account for decreased cognitive control in GD, contributing to the progressive loss of control over gambling behaviors. However, the way in which cognitive control interacts with affective and motivational processes in GD is still matter of investigation. Among prefrontal areas, orbitofrontal cortex has been indicated as a possible nexus for sensory integration, value-based decision-making and emotional processing, thus contributing to both motivational and affective aspects of cognitive control.
Disclosure of interest
The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.
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