Q & A with Catharine Winstanley: How the mind works when gambling

Tiny ‘rat casino’ offers insight into brain and possible treatments for compulsive gambling

UBC Psychology Prof. Catharine Winstanley’s work on gambling addictions will be a highlight of the new Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, a major new research and clinical facility that recently opened at UBC.


In 2009, Winstanley’s Laboratory of Molecular and Behavioural Neuroscience created the world’s first animal lab experiment to model human gambling.

What has your research revealed about gambling addictions?

We have learned that, in animal models, problem gambling behaviours can be treated with drugs that block dopamine D4 receptors. These receptors are linked to a variety of behavioural disorders, but research had not yet shown a useful role in treatment. Our 2013 study found that rats treated with a dopamine D4 receptor-blocking medication showed reduced levels of behaviours commonly associated with compulsive gambling in humans.

Read the full Q and A with UBC News