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Orbitofrontal cortex, part of the prefrontal cortex

Impulsiveness (or 1mpulsivity) is a personality trait characterized by the inclination of an individual to initiate behavior without adequate forethought as to the consequences of their actions, acting on the spur of the moment. Eysenck and Eysenck related impulsivity to risk-taking, lack of planning, and making up one's mind quickly. Impulsivity has been shown to be a major component of various neuropsychiatric disorders such as ADHD, substance abuse disorders and bipolar disorder. Impulsivity has been shown to have a genetic component and may be inheritable. Abnormal patterns of impulsivity may also be an acquired trait as a result of various neurodegenerative diseases, traumatic brain injury (TBI), hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, intrauterine hypoxia, bacterial or viral infections or neurotoxicity as a result of chemical exposure. The orbitofrontal cortex and right inferior frontal gyrus have been shown to play a part in impulse control.[1][2][3]

As a personality trait, impulsivity is part of normal behavior as it contributes to adaptive functioning. To do something and not be aware, especially for young children, is relatively common. Recent psychological research has suggested that there are various facets of impulsivity.[4] Some researchers have proposed a 3-factor model according to impulsivity; attentional ("getting easily bored"), motor ("going into action") and cognitive ("inability to plan") factors. Recent theories[5] have suggested five separate aspects of impulsivity:[6]

  • Positive urgency; the tendency to act rashly while in a positive mood.
  • Negative urgency; the tendency to act rashly while in a negative mood.
  • Lack of premeditation; the inability to anticipate the future consequences of actions.
  • Lack of perseverance; the inability to follow through on a task
  • Sensation-seeking; the experience of positive feelings towards risky actions.

Barratt identified three main aspects: motor (acting without thinking), cognitive (quick decisions), and non-planning (present orientation).

Psychometric tests for impulsivity

  • Lifetime History of Impulsive Behaviors; a self-report questionnaire of the lifetime prevalence of impulsive behavior.[7]
  • UPPS Impulsive Behavior Scale (Whiteside and Lynam; 2001); a 45-item self-report questionnaire which distinguishes four facets of impulsivity: urgency, lack of premeditation, lack of perseverance, and sensation-seeking. It is scored on a 4-point scale from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree.[8]
    • UPPS-P Impulsive Behavior Scale (UPPS-P); a revised version of the UPPS is a 59-item self-report questionnaire that adds an additional factor, "positive urgency".[9]
    • UPPS-R Interview (UPPS-R); Semi-structured interview format for UPPS-P Impulsive Behavior Scale.
  • Barratt Impulsiveness Scale; a 30-item self-report questionnaire.[10]

Clinical implications

This cognitive style is linked with a number of clinical conditions including:

See also

References & Bibliography

  1. Corsini, Raymond Joseph, 1999, The Dictionary of Psychology, Psychology Press, ISBN 158391028X, p. 476.
  2. Berlin HA, Rolls ET, Kischka U. Impulsivity, time perception, emotion and reinforcement sensitivity in patients with orbitofrontal cortex lesions. Brain. 2004 May;127(Pt 5):1108-26. Epub 2004 Feb 25. PMID 14985269
  3. Salmond CH, Menon DK, Chatfield DA, Pickard JD, Sahakian BJ. Deficits in decision-making in head injury survivors.J Neurotrauma. 2005 Jun;22(6):613-22. PMID 15941371
  4. Varieties of impulsivity, J.L. Evenden, Psychopharmacology, 1999, Volume 146, Number 4.
  5. Whiteside SP, Lynam DR. The Five Factor Model and impulsivity: Using a structural model of personality to understand impulsivity. Pers Indiv Differ 2001; 30: 669-89.
  6. Emotion-based Dispositions to Rash Action: Positive and Negative Urgency Melissa A. Cyders and Gregory T. Smith. Article
  7. Schmidt CA, Fallon AE, Coccaro EF. Assessment of behavioral and cognitive impulsivity: development and validation of the Lifetime History of Impulsive Behaviors Interview. Psychiatry Res. 2004 Apr 30;126(2):107-21. PMID 15123390
  8. Whiteside SP, Lynam DR. Understanding the role of impulsivity and externalizing psychopathology in alcohol abuse: application of the UPPS impulsive behavior scale.Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2003 Aug;11(3):210-7. PMID 12940500
  9. Perales JC, Verdejo-Garcia A, Moya M, Lozano O, Perez-Garcia M. Bright and dark sides of impulsivity: Performance of women with high and low trait impulsivity on neuropsychological tasks. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2009 Apr 8:1-18. [Epub ahead of print] PMID 19358009
  10. Patton JH, Stanford MS, Barratt ES. Factor structure of the Barratt impulsiveness scale. J Clin Psychol. 1995 Nov;51(6):768-74. PMID 8778124

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