Ex-mayor Maureen O'Connor blames behavior on brain tumor; expert weighs in

O'Connor gambled away more than $1B

SAN DIEGO - A local brain expert weighed in on former San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor's claims that a brain tumor led to her compulsive behavior.

Court documents stated O'Connor's "change of behavior with escalating gambling" went hand-in-hand with the development of a slow-growing tumor in the part of the brain that affected her judgment and impulse control.

O'Connor said there are "two" Maureens -- one who was a well-respected public figure for 30 years, the other whose escalating gambling was borne out of her depression after the death of her husband.

Jacopo Annese, Ph.D., of the Brain Observatory, told 10News, "Depending where the tumor is, there can be different effects on the patient's behavior."

When 10News showed him O'Connor's brain scans, he said, "At first sight, one would imagine that it doesn't have any effect on frontal functions. However, in this case, there seems also to be white matter involvement, meaning all the fibers that connect different areas also seem to be involved."
But then, there's also the opinion of someone who's experienced the gambling loss, not the tumor, first hand.

"Embezzling is a major part of the problem with compulsive gamblers. There is a lot of white-collar crime. I myself am an embezzler," said David, a member of Gamblers Anonymous.

He told 10News he's seen people, like O'Connor, hit rock bottom too many times in his 40 years of recovery.

"I'm sure there were times she wanted to stop, but she could not walk away from the card room or the slot machine," David added. "What people don't realize this addiction to gamble is very, very powerful. It's worse than drugs or drinking."

O'Connor said since she had the tumor removed, she's had no urge to gamble.

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