The Influence of Emotion Regulation on the Neural Systems of Reward Processing

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Risk-taking and reward-seeking behaviors are staples of compulsive gambling, a progressive addiction that affects many aspects of life. In a society that encourages consumption and immediate rewards, a risk-taking individual is constantly presented with salient conditioned cues representing risk-taking opportunities. Such salient conditioned cues lead to craving - broadly defined as an urge or desire for an appetitive stimulus or event. As craving grows in intensity, an increase in consumption of the addictive substance (e.g., cocaine) or behavior (e.g., risk-taking or gambling behavior) can be observed. Thus, it is imperative that treatment options exist not only to cope with the consequences of addictions such as compulsive gambling, but also to curtail reward seeking behavior. One potential treatment is the use of antecedent-focused cognitive strategies to regulate craving elicited by conditioned cues, in order to decrease reward-seeking or risk-taking behavior. The goal of this proposal is to investigate the effects of emotion regulation strategies on the neural systems of reward processing. Cognitive strategies are successful in modulating both physiological (as measured by skin conductance) and neural (as measured by neuroimaging) responses elicited by an inherently emotional stimulus or a conditioned stimulus. Thus, such strategies may also be successful in reducing the anticipatory feelings or craving associated with a more salient conditioned stimulus (e.g., a slot machine), subsequently influencing behavior (e.g., decreased risk-taking or gambling), while modulating neural circuits involved in reward processing (e.g., striatum). The proposed studies will use fMRI, in conjunction with physiological and behavioral measures, to investigate two aims outlined below. AIM 1: To examine the influence of cognitive strategies on physiological arousal elicited by salient stimuli, risk-taking behavior & the neural mechanisms underlying reward processing. AIM 2: To examine the influence of cognitive strategies on the neural mechanisms of reward processing and risk-taking behavior when immediate reinforcement is presented. The general hypothesis is that using emotion regulation during an appetitive conditioning gambling task will modulate the human reward circuitry while engaging regions of the brain involved in cognitive control. Accordingly, such strategies will lead to decreases in craving or levels of arousal elicited by the conditioned stimulus, thus influencing risky economic decision-making (i.e., choosing a safe vs. the risky option). This proposal serves as an initial step towards a long-term research plan aimed at investigating techniques that may help curtail risk-taking or reward seeking behavior before social and psychological problems occur. The studies described in the proposal have the potential of supporting techniques that may help curtail risk-taking or gambling behavior by focusing on the reduction of craving, before social & psychological problems occur. Although the proposed studies target gambling behavior, the potential results can be translated to other addictions, suggesting the use of antecedent focused strategies in reducing risk-taking behavior.
Effective start/end date7/1/076/30/09


  • National Institutes of Health: $231,750.00


  • Medicine(all)

Fingerprint Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.