This study aimed to evaluate the association between the severity of pathological gambling, serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) level, and the characteristics of quantitative electroencephalography (EEG) in patients with gambling disorder.
A total of 55 male patients aged 18–65 with gambling disorder participated. The severity of pathological gambling was assessed with the nine-item Problem Gambling Severity Index from the Canadian Problem Gambling Index (CPGI-PGSI). The Beck Depression Inventory and Lubben Social Network Scale were also assessed. Serum BDNF levels were assessed from blood samples. The resting-state EEG was recorded while the eyes were closed, and the absolute power of five frequency bands was analyzed: delta (1–4 Hz), theta (4–8 Hz), alpha (8–12 Hz), beta (12–30 Hz), and gamma (30–50 Hz).
Serum BDNF level was positively correlated with theta power in the right parietal region (P4, r = .403, p = .011), beta power in the right parietal region (P4, r = .456, p = .010), and beta power in the right temporal region (T8, r = .421, p = .008). Gambling severity (CPGI-PGSI) was positively correlated with absolute beta power in the left frontal region (F7, r = .284, p = .043) and central region [(C3, r = .292, p = .038), (C4, r = .304, p = .030)].
These findings support the hypothesis that right-dominant lateralized correlations between BDNF and beta and theta power reflect right-dominant brain activation in addiction. The positive correlations between beta power and the severity of gambling disorder may be associated with hyperexcitability and increased cravings. These findings contribute to a better understanding of brain-based electrophysiological changes and BDNF levels in patients with pathological gambling.