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Completed Research

The following is a summary of ongoing and completed research projects.

v      Motivation and Emotion Neuroscience Collaboration

v      College Alcohol and Gambling Study

v      Evaluation Services With Regard to the Regional Impact of Disordered Gambling in Missouri

v      Special Populations

v      Assessment and Treatment

v      Public Health/Public Policy

v      Your First Step to Change

v      Nature of Addiction

v      Trends in Gambling Research

Motivation and Emotion Neuroscience Collaboration

The Institute’s partnership with the Motivation and Emotion Neuroscience Collaboration (MENC), based at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Radiology, built on an earlier research project funded by the NCRG, “Functional MRI of Neural Responses to Monetary Gains, Losses, and Prospects in Pathological Gamblers and Normal Subjects.”  According to principal investigator Dr. Hans Breiter, co-director of MENC, this landmark study was "the first demonstration that a monetary reward in a gambling-like experiment produces brain activation very similar to that observed in a cocaine addict receiving an infusion of cocaine.”

Aharon, I., Etcoff, N., Ariely, D., Chabris, C. F., O'Connor, E., & Breiter, H. C. (2001). Beautiful faces have variable reward value: fMRI and behavioral evidence. Neuron, 32(3), 537-551.

Breiter, H. C., Aharon, I., Kahneman, D., Dale, A., & Shizgal, P. (2001). Functional imaging of neural responses to expectancy and experience of monetary gains and losses. Neuron, 30(2), 619-639.

Breiter, H. C., & Gasic, G. P. (2004). A general circuitry processing reward/aversion information and its implications for neuropsychiatric illness. In M. Gazzaniga (Ed.), The Cognitive Neurosciences (3rd ed., Vol. III, pp. 1043-1065). Cambridge: MIT Press.

Makris, N., Gasic, G.P., Seidman, L.J., Goldstein, J.M., Gastfriend, D.R., Elman, I., Albaugh, M.D., Hodge, S.M., Ziegler, D.A., Sheahan, F.S., Caviness, V.S., Tsuang, M.T., Kennedy, D.N., Hyman, S.E., Rosen, B.R., & Breiter, H.C. (2004). Decreased absolute amygdala volume in cocaine addicts. Neuron, 44(4), 729-40.

College Alcohol and Gambling Study

The Institute teamed up with the Harvard College Alcohol Study, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded ongoing survey of over 14,000 students at 120 four-year colleges in 40 states, to analyze data collected after gambling questions were added to the survey in 2001. The study founded that 42 percent of college students gambled in the past year (compared to 82 percent of adults in the most recent national survey of household residents 18 years of age and older), and 2.6 percent gambled at least weekly during the school year (compared to 23 percent in the household survey).

This nationally representative sample of colleges and universities was also used in a study of alcohol and gambling policies. Less than one-fourth of the schools studied had policies on gambling activity, whereas all had alcohol policies. The authors suggested that the low number of schools with gambling policies represents a lost opportunity for school officials to prevent or limit student disordered gambling and to coordinate recovery efforts for students in need.

LaBrie, R. A., Shaffer, H. J., LaPlante, D. A., & Wechsler, H. (2003). Correlates of college student gambling in the United States. Journal of American College Health, 52(2), 53-62.

Nelson, T. F., LaBrie, R. A., LaPlante, D. A., Stanton, M., Shaffer, H. J., & Wechsler, H. (2007). Sports betting and other gambling in athletes, fans, and other college students. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 78(4), 271-283.

Shaffer, H. J., Donato, A. N., Labrie, R. A., Kidman, R. C., & Laplante, D. A. (2005). The epidemiology of college alcohol and gambling policies. Harm Reduction Journal, 2(1), 1.

Evaluation Services with Regard to the Regional Impact of Disordered Gambling in Missouri

The project was supported by a grant from the Kansas City Port Authority Problem Gambling Fund of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.  Phase 1 of the study determined the relative prevalence of gambling disorders in Missouri’s counties and the City of St. Louis through analysis of the database of individuals who have voluntarily banned themselves from Missouri’s riverboat casinos by enrolling in the Missouri Gaming Commission’s Voluntary Exclusion Program. The relative prevalence rates define county-level differences in the need for treatment and provide firm evidence upon which to base strategies designed to mitigate the impact of disordered gambling on the public health. The findings of this phase of the study are provided in a report available on the Division on Addiction web site:

Shaffer, H. J., LaBrie, R. A., LaPlante, D. A., & Nelson, S. B. (2004). Disordered gambling in Missouri: Regional differences in the need for treatment. Boston, MA: Harvard Medical School Division on Addiction.

The findings were also published in a peer-reviewed journal:

LaBrie, R. A., Nelson, S. E., LaPlante, D. A., Peller, A. J., Caro, G., & Shaffer, H. J. (2007). Missouri casino self-excluders: distributions across time and space. Journal of Gambling Studies, 23(2), 231-243.

During Phase 2 of this project, information will be obtained directly from a representative sample of the self-excluders about their experiences in the program. Information from this follow-up study will be valuable for directing future self-exclusion programs and procedures. This analysis will determine (1) the effectiveness of the program for helping people resolve their problems, (2) what modifications might improve the program’s impact, and (3) what other assistance would improve healthy responses to combating gambling-related problems. Such an evaluation will be useful to public policy makers in Missouri and across the nation as other states consider implementing a similar program.

Special Populations

LaBrie, R. A., & Shaffer, H. J. (2007). Gambling with adolescent health. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40(5), 387-389.

LaPlante, D. A., Nelson, S. E., LaBrie, R. A., & Shaffer, H. J. (2006). Men and women playing games: Gender and the gambling preferences of Iowa Gambling Treatment Program participants. Journal of Gambling Studies, 22(1), 65-80

Lee, T. K., Labrie, R. A., Rhee, H. S., & Shaffer, H. J. (2008). A study of South Korean casino employees and gambling problems. Occupational Medicine, 58(3), 191-197.

Nelson, S. E., LaPlante, D. A., LaBrie, R. A., & Shaffer, H. J. (2006). The proxy effect: Gender and gambling problem trajectories of Iowa Gambling Treatment Program participants. Journal of Gambling Studies, 22, 221-240.

Shaffer, H. J., Eber, G. B., Hall, M. N., & Vander Bilt, J. (2000). Smoking behavior among casino employees: Self-report validation using plasma cotinine. Addictive Behaviors, 25(5), 693-704.

Shaffer, H. J., Freed, C. R., & Healea, D. (2002). Gambling disorders among homeless persons with substance use disorders seeking treatment at a community center. Psychiatric Services, 55(9), 1112-1117.

Shaffer, H. J., & Hall, M. N. (2002). The natural history of gambling and drinking problems among casino employees. Journal of Social Psychology, 142(4), 405-424.

Shaffer, H. J., LaBrie, R. A., LaPlante, D. A., Nelson, S. E., & Stanton, M. V. (2004). The road less traveled: Moving from distribution to determinants in the study of gambling epidemiology. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 49(8), 504-516.

Shaffer, H. J., Vander Bilt, J., & Hall, M. N. (1999). Gambling, drinking, smoking, and other health risk activities among casino employees. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 36(3), 365-378.

Assessment, Treatment and Brief Interventions

LaPlante, D. A., Nelson, S. E., LaBrie, R. A., & Shaffer, H. J. (2006). Men and women playing games: Gender and the gambling preferences of Iowa Gambling Treatment Program participants. Journal of Gambling Studies, 22(1), 65-80.

Ladouceur, R., & Shaffer, H. J. (2005). Treating problem gamblers: Working towards empirically supported treatment. Journal of Gambling Studies, 21(1), 1-4.

Nelson, S. E., LaPlante, D. A., LaBrie, R. A., & Shaffer, H. J. (2006). The proxy effect: Gender and gambling problem trajectories of Iowa Gambling Treatment Program participants. Journal of Gambling Studies, 22, 221-240.

Shaffer, H. J., & Freed, C. R. (2005). The assessment of gambling related disorders. In D. Donovan & G. A. Marlatt (Eds.), Assessment of Addictive Behaviors. New York: Guilford.

Shaffer, H. J., & LaPlante, D. (2005). The treatment of gambling related disorders. In G. A. Marlatt & D. M. Donovan (Eds.), Relapse prevention (second ed.). New York: Guilford.

Your First Step to Change

Your First Step to Change: Gambling is a self-help manual developed by the Division on Addiction and the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, with support from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the National Center for Responsible Gaming. Originally created as a booklet for callers to the Massachusetts gambling helpline, Your First Step to Change allows users to assess their personal situation and their readiness to change and offers suggestions for changing behavior in a gentle, non-threatening manner. The tone of the toolkit reflects research demonstrating that people with addictive disorders tend to be ambivalent about changing their behavior even when the addiction is causing problems in their lives.

Visit to participate in the confidential, interactive version or to download PDFs of the English, Spanish, Chinese, Khmer, and Vietnamese versions.

Currently, Your First Step to Change is being tested in rural Nevada by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in collaboration with the Division on Addiction, with support from the Nevada State Department of Health and Human Services. A grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to the Division on Addiction is supporting a similar trial in Massachusetts.

Public Health/Public Policy

LaPlante, D. A., & Shaffer, H. J. (2007). Understanding the influence of gambling opportunities: Expanding exposure models to include adaptation. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77(4), 616-623.

Peller, A.J., LaPlante, D.A., & Shaffer, H.J. (2008). Parameters for safer gambling behavior: Examining the empirical research. Journal of Gambling Studies. doi 10.1007/s10899-008-9097-5

Shaffer, H.J. (2005). From disabling to enabling the public interest: Natural transitions from gambling exposure to adaptation and self-regulation. Addiction, 100(9), 1227-35; discussion 1235.

Shaffer, H. J., & Kidman, R. (2004). Gambling and the Public Health. In J. E. Grant & M. N. Potenza (Eds.), Pathological Gambling: A clinical guide to treatment (pp. 3-23). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Shaffer, H.J., LaBrie, R., & LaPlante D. (2004). Laying the foundation for quantifying regional exposure to social phenomena: Considering the case of legalized gambling as a public health toxin. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 18, 40-48.

Nature of Addiction

Shaffer, H. J., & Kidman, R. C. (2003). Shifting perspectives on gambling and addiction. Journal of Gambling Studies, 19(1), 1-6.

LaPlante, D. A., Nelson, S. E., LaBrie, R. A., & Shaffer, H. J. (2008). Stability and progression of disordered gambling: Lessons from longitudinal studies. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 53(1), 52-60.

Odegaard, S. S., Peller, A., & Shaffer, H. J. (2005). Addiction as syndrome. Paradigm, 9, 12-13, 22.

Shaffer, H. J., & Albanese, M. (2004). Addiction's defining characteristics. In R. H. Coombs (Ed.), Addiction Counseling Review: Preparing for Comprehensive, Certification and Licensing Exams: Lahaska Press.

Shaffer, H., LaPlante, D., LaBrie, R., Kidman, R., Donato, A., & Stanton, M. (2004) Toward a syndrome model of addiction: Multiple expressions, common etiology. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 12, 367-374.

Trends in Gambling Research

Shaffer, H.J., Stanton, M.V., Nelson, S.E. (2006). Trends in gambling studies research: quantifying, categorizing, and describing citations. Journal of Gambling Studies, 22(4): 427-42.


Completed Extramural Research

v      Peer Review Panels

v      Funded Projects

o        Neuroscience

o        Incentive Grants for New Investigators

o        Social and Behavioral Science

Peer Review Panels

Proposals submitted to the Institute’s extramural research grants program are reviewed by an independent panel of distinguished scientists. Following the procedures and criteria established by the National Institutes of Health, the peer review panels evaluate the scientific merit of proposals and make funding recommendations to the Institute. The following have served as reviewers since 2001.

Mark Appelbaum, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor and Professor of Psychology
University of California, San Diego

Michael Bozarth, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology
State University of New York-Buffalo

Hans Breiter, M.D.
Motivation and Emotion Neuroscience Center
Massachusetts General Hospital

Linda B. Cottler, Ph.D.
Professor of Epidemiology in Psychiatry
Washington University School of Medicine

Renee Cunningham-Williams, Ph.D.
Visiting Associate Professor
Brown School of Social Work
Washington University-St. Louis

Rani Desai, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Yale School of Medicine

Lance Dodes, M.D.
Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

William Eadington, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics
Director, Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming
University of Nevada, Reno

Richard I. Evans, Ph.D.
Distinguished University Professor of Psychology
University of Houston

Edward Federman, Ph.D.
Instructor in Psychiatry
Boston University School of Medicine

Gregory Gasic, Ph.D.
Director, Laboratory of Neurogenetics in the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Imaging, Department of Radiology
Co-Director, Motivation Emotion Neuroscience Collaboration (MENC)
Massachusetts General Hospital

Jon E. Grant, M.D., J.D.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
University of Minnesota School of Medicine

David Hodgins, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
University of Calgary

Barry Kosofsky, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Pediatrics
Chief, Division on Pediatric Neurology
New York Weill Cornell Medical Center

Richard A. LaBrie, Ed.D.
Associate Director of Research and Data Analysis
Division on Addiction, Cambridge Health Alliance

James Langenbucher, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Center for Alcohol Studies
Rutgers University

Debi A. LaPlante, Ph.D.
Instructor in Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School

Scott Lukas, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School
Clinical Neuropsychopharmacology Laboratory
McLean Hospital

Eileen Luna-Firebaugh, J.D., M.P.A.
Associate Professor of American Indian Studies
University of Arizona

Richard McGowan, S.J., D.B.A.
Associate Professor of Economics
Boston College

Lisa M. Najavits, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
Boston University School of Medicine

Peter E. Nathan, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Community and Behavioral Health
University of Iowa

Timothy O’Farrell, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Harvard Medical School
Director, Families and Addiction Program
Boston VA Healthcare System

Roy Perlis, M.D.
Director of Pharmacogenomics Research, Depression Clinical Research Program and Bipolar Research Program
Massachusetts General Hospital

Charan Ranganath, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Center for Neuroscience & Department of Psychology
University of California, Davis

John Renner, M.D.
Associate Chief of Psychiatry
Boston VA Healthcare System

Robert Rychtarik, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scientist
Research Institute on Addictions
University of Buffalo, State University of New York

David Self, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Lydia Bryant Test Professorship
Department of Psychiatry
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Wendy Slutske, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology
University of Missouri, Columbia

Randy Stinchfield, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
University of Minnesota Medical School

Joni Vander Bilt, M.P.H.
Senior Researcher
Western Psychiatric Clinic and University of Pittsburgh

Joseph Westermeyer, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.
Chief of Psychiatry
Minneapolis VA Medical Center

James Whelan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology
University of Memphis

Ken C. Winters, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
University of Minnesota Medical School

Harold Wynne, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor
McGill University and University of Alberta
President, Wynne Resources, Ltd.

Funded Projects


Award: $156,634
Principal Investigator: Alain Dagher, M.D., McGill University

This research is comparing DSM-IV-diagnosed pathological gamblers to 10 healthy controls on a monetary reward gambling task and a mental stress task that does not involve monetary reward. The hypothesis is that compared to controls, pathological gamblers will show elevated dopamine release correlates with novelty-seeking personality type, cortisol levels and autonomic and mood measures. This study will yield new information about the neurobiology of gambling disorders and the role of the mesolimbic dopamine in reward and stress.

Award: $172,500
Principal Investigator: Jody Tanabe, M.D., University of Colorado Health Sciences Center

This project examined the degree to which substance abusers with pathological gambling differ or resemble non-gambling substances abusers in their neurophysiological responses to decisions involving money. The project focused on the brain regions involved in decision-making processes related to gambling behavior to determine if differences in activation can be identified in three groups: substance abusers, substance abusers with pathological gambling and controls. The investigators used high field (3T) functional MRI methods to compare the blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) response in substance abusers with and without pathological gambling and controls during a risk-taking task.



Tanabe, J., Thompson, L., Claus, E., Dalwani, M., Hutchison, K., & Banich, M. T. (2007). Prefrontal cortex activity is reduced in gambling and nongambling substance users during decision-making. Human Brain Mapping, 28(12), 1276-1286.

Award: $170,292
Principal Investigator: Charan Ranganath, Ph.D., University of California-Davis

This research program used state-of-the-art methods in event-related functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to test hypotheses about cognitive processes implemented by the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC)--processes that are likely to be impaired in individuals with gambling and other addictions. One set of experiments investigated the role of the OFC in trial-and-error rule learning to determine whether this involvement depends on whether learning is based on gains (monetary rewards) or on losses (monetary punishments). A second set of experiments investigated the role of the OFC in behavioral inhibition and in the use of motivational information (i.e., monetary rewards and punishments) in decision-making.


Cohen, M.X., & Ranganath, C. (2005). Behavioral and neural predictors of upcoming decisions. Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience, 5(2), 117-26.

Cohen, M.X., Young, J., Baek, J.M., Kessler, C., & Ranganath C. (2005) Individual differences in extraversion and dopamine genetics predict neural reward responses. Cognitive Brain Research, 25(3), 851-61.

Ranganath C. (2006). Working memory for visual objects: Complementary roles of inferior temporal, medial temporal, and prefrontal cortex. Neuroscience, 139(1), 277-89.

Ranganath, C., & Blumenfeld, R.S. (2005). Doubts about double dissociations between short- and long-term memory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9(8), 374-80.

Ranganath, C., Cohen, M.X., & Brozinsky, C.J. (2005). Working memory maintenance contributes to long-term memory formation: neural and behavioral evidence. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17(7), 994-1010.

Award: $172,500
Principal Investigator: Donald W. Black, M.D., Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa

This project is conducting a neuropsychological assessment on 100 subjects diagnosed with pathological gambling and 100 controls. The hypothesis is that persons with pathological gambling will perform more poorly on measures of executive function (e.g., decision-making), attention, and impulsivity but that general intelligence and memory will not differ. The project is employing neuropsychological tests of known reliability, blind testing procedures and state-of-the-art statistical analyses. This research will advance understanding of gambling disorders by helping to pin down the underlying neuropsychological contributions to pathological gambling and ultimately lead to improved and more targeted treatment and prevention strategies.

Award: $167,088
Principal Investigator: Brett A. Clementz, Ph.D., University of Georgia

This project is collecting brain activity data while participants engage in behavioral tasks of controlled decision making that index the link between perceived control and gambling pathology. Measurements of brain activity using MEG, in combination with electroencephalography (EEG), will yield exceptional information about differences between problem and non-problem gamblers concerning the spatial and temporal patterns of brain functioning that support decision-making.

Award: $149,185
Principal Investigator: Jakob Linnet, Ph.D., Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark

The hypothesis is that pathological gamblers have a lower dopamine concentration and a higher dopamine release during gambling compared with healthy controls; that other factors such as personality traits (sensation seeking) influence the dopamine release during gambling; and, that dopamine binding potential and occupancy are associated (directly or indirectly) with cognitive bias of gambling performance. The research is also looking at the relation between blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal and cognitive processing of gambling activity. The hypothesis is that the cognitive processing of gambling involves the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), and that pathological gamblers show a reduced VMPFC BOLD activation during gambling.

Incentive Grants for New Investigators

Award: $23,000
Principal Investigator: Silvia Martins, M.D., Ph.D., Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

The aims of this study were to: 1) estimate the prevalence rates of gambling habits and gambling disorders in a sample of 519 15-16 year old youth (90% African American) from Baltimore city; 2) examine the association of low levels of parent monitoring and deviant peer relationship with gambling involvement in this group of adolescents; 3) assess comorbidity of PG with alcohol and drug use in this group, analyzing differences according to different levels of gambling involvement; 4) assess the association of PG with psychiatric comorbidity such as depressive and anxiety symptoms, impulsivity and antisocial behavior.


Martins, S. S., Storr, C. L., Ialongo, N. S., & Chilcoat, H. D. (2007). Mental health and gambling in urban female adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40(5), 463-465.

Martins, S. S., Storr, C. L., Ialongo, N. S., & Chilcoat, H. D. (2008). Gender differences in mental health characteristics and gambling among African-American adolescent gamblers. American Journal on Addictions, 17(2), 126-134.

Award: $56,197
Principal Investigator: Shelly B. Flagel, Ph.D., Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, University of Michigan

Few, if any, animal models of pathological gambling exist that would allow us to intricately investigate the neurobiological circuitry implicated in such behavior. This study took advantage of two animal models of individual differences to create a viable model of pathological gambling that addresses both the impulsivity and risk-taking dimensions of the disorder. While pathological gambling is a disorder specific to the human species, an animal model relevant to the disorder is critical to gain a better understanding of the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms regulating such behavior.

Award: $57,436
Principal Investigator: Anna E. Goudriaan, Ph.D., University of Missouri, Columbia, and Amsterdam Institute for Addiction Research

This research focused on gambling patterns, changes over time in gambling patterns, at-risk gambling and gambling problems, in a four-year longitudinal study of 2,470 college students. First, the study addressed whether classes of individuals, varying along a range of gambling dimensions (e.g., long versus short odds, informal versus formal gambling, and illegal/underage gambling versus legal gambling) are associated with individual differences, such as impulsivity/novelty seeking, involvement in alcohol/drug use and other risky behaviors. Second, it examined high risk gambling and gambling problems. Third, the research addressed changes in gambling patterns, by determining which factors are related to different patterns of gambling behavior and their changes over time. Finally, the investigation determined whether frequent gamblers also differ from low risk and non-gamblers on two neurocognitive self-regulation measures.



Goudriaan, A. E., Grekin, E. R., & Sher, K. J. (2007). Decision making and binge drinking: a longitudinal study. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 31(6), 928-938.

Award: $57,500
Principal Investigator: Catharine A. Winstanley, Ph.D., University of British Columbia

This project is developing and testing a novel model of gambling behavior in rats based on the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) commonly used to assess clinical populations. Preliminary data indicate that rats can “play the odds,” i.e., can discriminate between different response outcomes associated with the delivery of different reward magnitudes but also different probabilities of long-term losses. This project will help determine if the rat IGT (RIGT) is a valid model of gambling behavior. The study will examine whether damage to the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and basolateral amygdala (BLA) increases risky decision-making in keeping with data from human studies.

Social and Behavioral Science

Award: $115,000
Principal Investigator: Ron Kessler, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School

This project yielded the first study of the gambling data collected for the first time in the 2001-2003 version of the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS-R), which was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and is considered a landmark study of mental health in the U.S. The survey included 9,282 households selected at random in 34 states. The study's 10-year follow-up went further by measuring, for the first time, the severity and persistence of people's mental illness and the quality of their treatment.



Kessler, R. C., Hwang, I., Labrie, R., Petukhova, M., Sampson, N. A., Winters, K. C., et al. (2008). DSM-IV pathological gambling in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Psychological Medicine, 38(9), 1351-1360.

Award: $172,201
Principal Investigator: Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., Virginia Commonwealth University

This investigation is conducting a detailed assessment of pathological gambling in 7,500 adult male and female twins from a population-based registry using self-report questionnaires. The study aims at elucidating the heritability of pathological gambling, clarifying its etiologic relationship with milder forms of problem gambling, and determining the genetic and environmental relationship between pathological gambling and major psychiatric disorders and personality traits. The investigators are seeking to determine whether pathological gambling is best conceptualized as a non-pharmacologic form of drug abuse or a variant of obsessive-compulsive behavior. The study will also look at the impact of gender differences on the disorder.

Award: $160,639
Principal Investigator: Edward J. Federman, Ph.D., Boston University

This study examined whether cognitive impairment or limited social support increase the risk of developing gambling problems in older adults. The project screened individuals who attend senior centers that provide bus trips to casinos for possible gambling problems and evaluated the cognitive functioning and social support of a subset of the sample. Early identification of those at risk can inform policy, prevention and treatment efforts, permitting those who safely enjoy the casino trips to continue the activity while protecting more vulnerable individuals. Identification of high-risk populations enables precise targeting of scarce resources to those most in need, and helps lay the basis for effective primary and secondary prevention strategies.

Award: $172,294
Principal Investigator: Randy Stinchfield, Ph.D., University of Minnesota Medical School

This project addressed the need for a reliable and valid treatment outcome assessment tool by measuring the reliability and validity of the Gambling Treatment Outcome Monitoring System (GAMTOMS), based upon the most up-to-date treatment outcome monitoring technology as recommended by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


Stinchfield, R., Winters, K. C., Botzet, A., Jerstad, S., & Breyer, J. (2007). Development and psychometric evaluation of the gambling treatment outcome monitoring system (GAMTOMS). Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 21(2), 174-184.

Award: $172,477
Principal Investigator: Rani A. Desai, Ph.D., M.P.H., Yale School of Medicine

This study assessed the prevalence and types of gambling and related behaviors and problems in patients with schizophrenia, and the influence of a co-occurring diagnosis with a substance use disorder on gambling behaviors and problems in patients with schizophrenia. The investigation also looked at the effect of two treatment variables on gambling behaviors, symptoms, and other problems: 1) treatment with typical vs. atypical antipsychotics; and 2) treatment with specialized dual diagnosis treatment programs as compared with those receiving mental health and substance abuse services in separate settings.

Award: $57,500
Principal Investigator: Robert G. Rychtarik, Ph.D., SUNY-University at Buffalo/Research Institute on Addictions

This project will lay the ground groundwork for a systematic program of research on Behavioral Couples Therapy (BCT) for pathological gambling by (a) developing a manualized BCT protocol for pathological gamblers, (b) assessing the feasibility of recruiting pathological gamblers and their intimates for BCT, and (c) conducting a pilot evaluation of the efficacy of the BCT with pathological gamblers. The results, together with recruitment and manualized treatment protocol experiences, will serve as the groundwork upon which to design and build a National Institutes of Health (NIH) application proposing a large-scale, more controlled evaluation of spouse-involved treatment for pathological gambling.

Award: $56,383
Principal Investigator: Nancy Petry, Ph.D., University of Connecticut Health Center

This study aimed at 1) comparing pathological gamblers (PGs) with control participants on self-report and laboratory-based measures of impulsivity; 2) comparing PGs with and without substance abuse histories on impulsivity scores; and 3) studying whether impulsivity is associated with treatment outcomes in PGs. The hypothesis is that that scores on some measures of impulsivity will be associated with gambling problems, including greater severity of gambling problems, co-occurring substance abuse and poorer gambling treatment outcomes.

Award: $57,384
Principal Investigator: James P. Whelan, Ph.D., The University of Memphis

This project is conducting a randomized clinical trial of a treatment that addresses both alcohol and gambling problems among college students. The treatment is a modification of Guided Self-Change intervention, which is one of the most well supported brief treatments for alcohol and other substance abuse problems.

Award: $172,500
Principal Investigator: Edward Gottheil, MD, Ph.D., University of Washington

This study is examining relationships between gambling experience and arousal (self-reported and electrodermal) in response to three specific types of gambling-related visual cues (machine, cards, sports betting); relationships between alcohol use and gambling experiences and arousal in response to visual alcohol and gambling cues; relationships among gambling motives (e.g., social, excitement, escape/coping, competition), specific gambling experiences, and cue arousal; and the effects of electrodermal feedback during cue exposure with no feedback on readiness to change.

Award: $168,941
Principal Investigator: Anne Helene Skinstad, Ph.D., University of Iowa, The Prairielands Addiction Technology Transfer Center

To address the need to understand the professional workforce charged with preventing and treating problem gambling, this study is collecting data on providers’ demographics, professional qualifications, training needs, and readiness to adopt evidence-based practices. The findings will lay the foundation for research-practice collaborations that will eventually advance the science of treatment in the U.S. Data collected from this pioneering survey will help form a strategy for the design and development of an evidence-based curriculum for delivery to gambling treatment professionals.

Translation of Your First Step to Change into Chinese, Vietnamese and Khmer
Award: $91,168
Principal Investigator: Chien-Chi Huang, Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling

As part of its initiative to make services available to Asian-language speakers in the state, the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling (MCCG) undertook the translation of Your First Step to Change, a science-based self-help book originally developed for callers to the MCCG helpline, into Khmer, Mandarin and Vietnamese. PDFs of the translated toolkits are available for download at


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