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1.  Integrating Behavioral Economics and Behavioral Genetics: Delayed Reward Discounting as an Endophenotype for Addictive Disorders 
Delayed reward discounting is a behavioral economic index of impulsivity, referring to how much an individual devalues a reward based on its delay in time. As a behavioral process that varies considerably across individuals, delay discounting has been studied extensively as a model for self-control, both in the general population and in clinical samples. There is growing interest in genetic influences on discounting and, in particular, the prospect of discounting as an endophenotype for addictive disorders (i.e., a heritable mechanism partially responsible for conferring genetic risk). This review assembles and critiques the evidence supporting this hypothesis. Via numerous cross-sectional studies and a small number of longitudinal studies, there is considerable evidence that impulsive discounting is associated with addictive behavior and appears to play an etiological role. Moreover, there is increasing evidence from diverse methodologies that impulsive delay discounting is temporally stable, heritable, and that elevated levels are present in nonaffected family members. These findings suggest that impulsive discounting meets the criteria for being considered an endophenotype. In addition, recent findings suggest that genetic variation related to dopamine neurotransmission is significantly associated with variability in discounting preferences. A significant caveat, however, is that the literature is modest in some domains and, in others, not all the findings have been supportive or consistent. In addition, important methodological considerations are necessary in future studies. Taken together, although not definitive, there is accumulating support for the hypothesis of impulsive discounting as an endophenotype for addictive behavior and a need for further systematic investigation.
doi:10.1002/jeab.4
PMCID: PMC3881595  PMID: 23344986
Delay Discounting; Impulsivity; Behavioral Economics; Genetics; Addiction; Substance Dependence; Review
2.  DAT1 and COMT effects on delay discounting and trait-impulsivity in male adolescents with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and healthy controls 
Choice impulsivity has been linked to dopamine function and is consistently observed in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a preference for smaller-immediate over larger-delayed rewards using choice-delay paradigms. More sophisticated delay discounting paradigms have yielded inconsistent results. Context and sample characteristics may have contributed to these variations. Here we examine the effect of type (real versus hypothetical) and magnitude of reward as well as of variation in dopamine genes on choice impulsivity.
We selected 36 male adolescents with ADHD-combined subtype (ADHD-CT) and 32 controls (mean age=15.42, SD=2.05) to form four roughly equally-sized subgroups on the basis of DAT110/6 haplotype dosage (2 copies, <2 copies). Participants, who were also genotyped for the COMTval158met and DRD448bp-VNTR polymorphisms, performed a hypothetical and a real-time discounting task and provided self-ratings of trait-impulsivity.
The ADHD-CT group discounted rewards more steeply than controls only in the hypothetical task, with delay, but not reward magnitude, influencing choices. They also rated themselves as more impulsive compared to controls. DAT110/6 dosage and the COMTVal158Met genotype predicted trait-impulsivity and discounting rates in the hypothetical task, but not in the real-time task.
Our results directly link variation in genes putatively influencing dopamine signaling in the prefrontal cortex (COMTVal158Met) and the striatum (DAT110/6) with discounting rates in a hypothetical task (but not a real-time task) and self-ratings of trait-impulsivity in ADHD-CT and healthy controls. The lack of magnitude effects in the hypothetical task suggests that discounting in this task may be influenced by different processes in ADHD-CT than in healthy controls.
doi:10.1038/npp.2010.124
PMCID: PMC2955909  PMID: 20736997
ADHD; delay discounting; impulsivity; dopamine; DAT1; COMT
3.  DAT1 and COMT effects on delay discounting and trait-impulsivity in male adolescents with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and healthy controls 
Choice impulsivity has been linked to dopamine function and is consistently observed in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a preference for smaller-immediate over larger-delayed rewards using choice-delay paradigms. More sophisticated delay discounting paradigms have yielded inconsistent results. Context and sample characteristics may have contributed to these variations. Here we examine the effect of type (real versus hypothetical) and magnitude of reward as well as of variation in dopamine genes on choice impulsivity.
We selected 36 male adolescents with ADHD-combined subtype (ADHD-CT) and 32 controls (mean age=15.42, SD=2.05) to form four roughly equally-sized subgroups on the basis of DAT110/6 haplotype dosage (2 copies, <2 copies). Participants, who were also genotyped for the COMTval158met and DRD448bp-VNTR polymorphisms, performed a hypothetical and a real-time discounting task and provided self-ratings of trait-impulsivity.
The ADHD-CT group discounted rewards more steeply than controls only in the hypothetical task, with delay, but not reward magnitude, influencing choices. They also rated themselves as more impulsive compared to controls. DAT110/6 dosage and the COMTVal158Met genotype predicted trait-impulsivity and discounting rates in the hypothetical task, but not in the real-time task.
Our results directly link variation in genes putatively influencing dopamine signaling in the prefrontal cortex (COMTVal158Met) and the striatum (DAT110/6) with discounting rates in a hypothetical task (but not a real-time task) and self-ratings of trait-impulsivity in ADHD-CT and healthy controls. The lack of magnitude effects in the hypothetical task suggests that discounting in this task may be influenced by different processes in ADHD-CT than in healthy controls.
doi:10.1038/npp.2010.124
PMCID: PMC2955909  PMID: 20736997
ADHD; delay discounting; impulsivity; dopamine; DAT1; COMT
4.  DAT1 and COMT Effects on Delay Discounting and Trait Impulsivity in Male Adolescents with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Healthy Controls 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2010;35(12):2414-2426.
Choice impulsivity has been linked to dopamine function and is consistently observed in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a preference for smaller-immediate over larger-delayed rewards using choice-delay paradigms. More sophisticated delay discounting paradigms have yielded inconsistent results. Context and sample characteristics may have contributed to these variations. In this study we examine the effect of type (real vs hypothetical) and magnitude of reward as well as of variation in dopamine genes on choice impulsivity. We selected 36 male adolescents with ADHD-combined subtype (ADHD-CT) and 32 controls (mean age=15.42, SD=2.05) to form four roughly equally sized subgroups on the basis of DAT110/6 haplotype dosage (2 copies and <2 copies). Participants, who were also genotyped for the COMTval158met and DRD448bp−VNTR polymorphisms, performed a hypothetical and a real-time discounting task and provided self-ratings of trait impulsivity. The ADHD-CT group discounted rewards more steeply than controls only in the hypothetical task, with delay, but not reward magnitude, influencing choices. They also rated themselves as more impulsive compared with controls. DAT110/6 dosage and the COMTVal158Met genotype predicted trait impulsivity and discounting rates in the hypothetical task, but not in the real-time task. Our results directly link variation in genes putatively influencing dopamine signaling in the prefrontal cortex (COMTVal158Met) and the striatum (DAT110/6) with discounting rates in a hypothetical task (but not a real-time task) and self-ratings of trait impulsivity in ADHD-CT and healthy controls. The lack of magnitude effects in the hypothetical task suggests that discounting in this task may be influenced by different processes in ADHD-CT than in healthy controls.
doi:10.1038/npp.2010.124
PMCID: PMC2955909  PMID: 20736997
ADHD; delay discounting; impulsivity; dopamine; DAT1; COMT; dopamine; behavioral science; biological psychiatry; development; developmental disorders; ADHD; delay discounting; impulsivity; DAT1; COMT; attention-deficit; hyperactivity disorder
5.  The role of dopamine in risk taking: a specific look at Parkinson’s disease and gambling 
An influential model suggests that dopamine signals the difference between predicted and experienced reward. In this way, dopamine can act as a learning signal that can shape behaviors to maximize rewards and avoid punishments. Dopamine is also thought to invigorate reward seeking behavior. Loss of dopamine signaling is the major abnormality in Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine agonists have been implicated in the occurrence of impulse control disorders in Parkinson’s disease patients, the most common being pathological gambling, compulsive sexual behavior, and compulsive buying. Recently, a number of functional imaging studies investigating impulse control disorders in Parkinson’s disease have been published. Here we review this literature, and attempt to place it within a decision-making framework in which potential gains and losses are evaluated to arrive at optimum choices. We also provide a hypothetical but still incomplete model on the effect of dopamine agonist treatment on these value and risk assessments. Two of the main brain structures thought to be involved in computing aspects of reward and loss are the ventral striatum (VStr) and the insula, both dopamine projection sites. Both structures are consistently implicated in functional brain imaging studies of pathological gambling in Parkinson’s disease.
doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00196
PMCID: PMC4038955  PMID: 24910600
impulse control disorders; impulsivity; reward; loss aversion; insula; ventral striatum
6.  Influence of Reward Delays on Responses of Dopamine Neurons 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2008;28(31):7837-7846.
Psychological and microeconomic studies have shown that outcome values are discounted by imposed delays. The effect, called temporal discounting, is demonstrated typically by choice preferences for sooner smaller rewards over later larger rewards. However, it is unclear whether temporal discounting occurs during the decision process when differently delayed reward outcomes are compared or during predictions of reward delays by pavlovian conditioned stimuli without choice. To address this issue, we investigated the temporal discounting behavior in a choice situation and studied the effects of reward delay on the value signals of dopamine neurons. The choice behavior confirmed hyperbolic discounting of reward value by delays on the order of seconds. Reward delay reduced the responses of dopamine neurons to pavlovian conditioned stimuli according to a hyperbolic decay function similar to that observed in choice behavior. Moreover, the stimulus responses increased with larger reward magnitudes, suggesting that both delay and magnitude constituted viable components of dopamine value signals. In contrast, dopamine responses to the reward itself increased with longer delays, possibly reflecting temporal uncertainty and partial learning. These dopamine reward value signals might serve as useful inputs for brain mechanisms involved in economic choices between delayed rewards.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1600-08.2008
PMCID: PMC3844811  PMID: 18667616
single-unit recording; dopamine; neuroeconomics; temporal discounting; preference reversal; impulsivity
7.  An Animal Model of Genetic Vulnerability to Behavioral Disinhibition and Responsiveness to Reward-Related Cues: Implications for Addiction 
Rats selectively-bred based on high or low reactivity to a novel environment were characterized for other behavioral and neurobiological traits thought to be relevant to addiction vulnerability. The two lines of animals, which differ in their propensity to self-administer drugs, also differ in the value they attribute to cues associated with reward, in impulsive behavior, and in their dopamine system. When a cue was paired with food or cocaine reward bred high-responder rats (bHRs) learned to approach the cue, whereas bred low-responder rats (bLRs) learned to approach the location of food delivery, suggesting that bHRs but not bLRs attributed incentive value to the cue. Moreover, while less impulsive on a measure of “impulsive choice”, bHRs were more impulsive on a measure of “impulsive action”— i.e. they had difficulty withholding an action in order to receive a reward, indicative of “behavioral disinhibition”. The dopamine agonist quinpirole caused greater psychomotor activation in bHRs relative to bLRs, suggesting dopamine supersensitivity. Indeed, relative to bLRs, bHRs also had a greater proportion of dopamine D2high receptors, the functionally active form of the receptor, in the striatum, in spite of lower D2 mRNA levels and comparable total D2 binding. In addition, fast-scan cyclic voltammetry revealed that bHRs had more spontaneous dopamine “release events” in the core of the nucleus accumbens than bLRs. Thus, bHRs exhibit parallels to “externalizing disorders” in humans, representing a genetic animal model of addiction vulnerability associated with a propensity to attribute incentive salience to reward-related cues, behavioral disinhibition, and increased dopaminergic “tone”.
doi:10.1038/npp.2009.142
PMCID: PMC2794950  PMID: 19794408
novelty-seeking; sign-tracking; goal-tracking; impulsivity; dopamine; D2high receptor
8.  An Animal Model of Genetic Vulnerability to Behavioral Disinhibition and Responsiveness to Reward-Related Cues: Implications for Addiction 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2009;35(2):388-400.
Rats selectively bred based on high or low reactivity to a novel environment were characterized for other behavioral and neurobiological traits thought to be relevant to addiction vulnerability. The two lines of animals, which differ in their propensity to self-administer drugs, also differ in the value they attribute to cues associated with reward, in impulsive behavior, and in their dopamine system. When a cue was paired with food or cocaine reward bred high-responder rats (bHRs) learned to approach the cue, whereas bred low-responder rats (bLRs) learned to approach the location of food delivery, suggesting that bHRs but not bLRs attributed incentive value to the cue. Moreover, although less impulsive on a measure of ‘impulsive choice', bHRs were more impulsive on a measure of ‘impulsive action'— ie, they had difficulty withholding an action to receive a reward, indicative of ‘behavioral disinhibition'. The dopamine agonist quinpirole caused greater psychomotor activation in bHRs relative to bLRs, suggesting dopamine supersensitivity. Indeed, relative to bLRs, bHRs also had a greater proportion of dopamine D2high receptors, the functionally active form of the receptor, in the striatum, in spite of lower D2 mRNA levels and comparable total D2 binding. In addition, fast-scan cyclic voltammetry revealed that bHRs had more spontaneous dopamine ‘release events' in the core of the nucleus accumbens than bLRs. Thus, bHRs exhibit parallels to ‘externalizing disorders' in humans, representing a genetic animal model of addiction vulnerability associated with a propensity to attribute incentive salience to reward-related cues, behavioral disinhibition, and increased dopaminergic ‘tone.'
doi:10.1038/npp.2009.142
PMCID: PMC2794950  PMID: 19794408
novelty-seeking; sign tracking; goal tracking; impulsivity; dopamine; D2high receptor
9.  Impulsive choice and response in dopamine agonist-related impulse control behaviors 
Psychopharmacology  2009;207(4):645-659.
Rationale
Dopaminergic medication-related Impulse Control Disorders (ICDs) such as pathological gambling and compulsive shopping have been reported in Parkinson disease (PD).
Hypothesis
We hypothesized that dopamine agonists (DAs) would be associated with greater impulsive choice, or greater discounting of delayed rewards, in PD patients with ICDs (PDI).
Methods
Fourteen PDI patients, 14 PD controls without ICDs and 16 medication-free matched normal controls were tested on (i) the Experiential Discounting Task (EDT), a feedback-based intertemporal choice task, (ii) spatial working memory and (iii) attentional set shifting. The EDT was used to assess impulsivity choice (hyperbolic K-value), reaction time (RT) and decision conflict RT (the RT difference between high conflict and low conflict choices). PDI patients and PD controls were tested on and off DA.
Results
On the EDT, there was a group by medication interaction effect [F(1,26)=5.62; p=0.03] with pairwise analyses demonstrating that DA status was associated with increased impulsive choice in PDI patients (p=0.02) but not in PD controls (p=0.37). PDI patients also had faster RT compared to PD controls F(1,26)=7.51 p=0.01]. DA status was associated with shorter RT [F(3,24)=8.39, p=0.001] and decision conflict RT [F(1,26)=6.16, p=0.02] in PDI patients but not in PD controls. There were no correlations between different measures of impulsivity. PDI patients on DA had greater spatial working memory impairments compared to PD controls on DA (t=2.13, df=26, p=0.04).
Conclusion
Greater impulsive choice, faster RT, faster decision conflict RT and executive dysfunction may contribute to ICDs in PD.
doi:10.1007/s00213-009-1697-y
PMCID: PMC3676926  PMID: 19838863
dopamine agonist; gambling; impulse control; Parkinson disease; delay discounting
10.  Amphetamine Sensitization Alters Reward Processing in the Human Striatum and Amygdala 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93955.
Dysregulation of mesolimbic dopamine transmission is implicated in a number of psychiatric illnesses characterised by disruption of reward processing and goal-directed behaviour, including schizophrenia, drug addiction and impulse control disorders associated with chronic use of dopamine agonists. Amphetamine sensitization (AS) has been proposed to model the development of this aberrant dopamine signalling and the subsequent dysregulation of incentive motivational processes. However, in humans the effects of AS on the dopamine-sensitive neural circuitry associated with reward processing remains unclear. Here we describe the effects of acute amphetamine administration, following a sensitising dosage regime, on blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal in dopaminoceptive brain regions during a rewarded gambling task performed by healthy volunteers. Using a randomised, double-blind, parallel-groups design, we found clear evidence for sensitization to the subjective effects of the drug, while rewarded reaction times were unchanged. Repeated amphetamine exposure was associated with reduced dorsal striatal BOLD signal during decision making, but enhanced ventromedial caudate activity during reward anticipation. The amygdala BOLD response to reward outcomes was blunted following repeated amphetamine exposure. Positive correlations between subjective sensitization and changes in anticipation- and outcome-related BOLD signal were seen for the caudate nucleus and amygdala, respectively. These data show for the first time in humans that AS changes the functional impact of acute stimulant exposure on the processing of reward-related information within dopaminoceptive regions. Our findings accord with pathophysiological models which implicate aberrant dopaminergic modulation of striatal and amygdala activity in psychosis and drug-related compulsive disorders.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093955
PMCID: PMC3981726  PMID: 24717936
11.  Amphetamine Paradoxically Augments Exocytotic Dopamine Release and Phasic Dopamine Signals 
Drugs of abuse hijack brain reward circuitry during the addiction process by augmenting action potential-dependent phasic dopamine release events associated with learning and goal-directed behavior. One prominent exception to this notion would appear to be amphetamine (AMPH) and related analogs, which are proposed instead to disrupt normal patterns of dopamine neurotransmission by depleting vesicular stores and promoting non-exocytotic dopamine efflux via reverse transport. This mechanism of AMPH action, though, is inconsistent with its therapeutic effects and addictive properties - which are thought to be reliant on phasic dopamine signaling. Here we used fast-scan cyclic voltammetry in freely moving rats to interrogate principal neurochemical responses to AMPH in the striatum and relate these changes to behavior. First, we showed that AMPH dose-dependently enhanced evoked dopamine responses to phasic-like current pulse trains for up to two hours. Modeling the data revealed that AMPH inhibited dopamine uptake but also unexpectedly potentiated vesicular dopamine release. Second, we found that AMPH increased the amplitude, duration and frequency of spontaneous dopamine transients, the naturally occurring, non-electrically evoked, phasic increases in extracellular dopamine. Finally, using an operant sucrose reward paradigm, we showed that low-dose AMPH augmented dopamine transients elicited by sucrose-predictive cues. However, operant behavior failed at high-dose AMPH, which was due to phasic dopamine hyperactivity and the decoupling of dopamine transients from the reward predictive cue. These findings identify up-regulation of exocytotic dopamine release as a key AMPH action in behaving animals and support a unified mechanism of abused drugs to activate phasic dopamine signaling.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2136-12.2013
PMCID: PMC3711765  PMID: 23303926
12.  Probing Compulsive and Impulsive Behaviors, from Animal Models to Endophenotypes: A Narrative Review 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2009;35(3):591-604.
Failures in cortical control of fronto-striatal neural circuits may underpin impulsive and compulsive acts. In this narrative review, we explore these behaviors from the perspective of neural processes and consider how these behaviors and neural processes contribute to mental disorders such as obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), obsessive–compulsive personality disorder, and impulse-control disorders such as trichotillomania and pathological gambling. We present findings from a broad range of data, comprising translational and human endophenotypes research and clinical treatment trials, focussing on the parallel, functionally segregated, cortico-striatal neural projections, from orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) to medial striatum (caudate nucleus), proposed to drive compulsive activity, and from the anterior cingulate/ventromedial prefrontal cortex to the ventral striatum (nucleus accumbens shell), proposed to drive impulsive activity, and the interaction between them. We suggest that impulsivity and compulsivity each seem to be multidimensional. Impulsive or compulsive behaviors are mediated by overlapping as well as distinct neural substrates. Trichotillomania may stand apart as a disorder of motor-impulse control, whereas pathological gambling involves abnormal ventral reward circuitry that identifies it more closely with substance addiction. OCD shows motor impulsivity and compulsivity, probably mediated through disruption of OFC-caudate circuitry, as well as other frontal, cingulate, and parietal connections. Serotonin and dopamine interact across these circuits to modulate aspects of both impulsive and compulsive responding and as yet unidentified brain-based systems may also have important functions. Targeted application of neurocognitive tasks, receptor-specific neurochemical probes, and brain systems neuroimaging techniques have potential for future research in this field.
doi:10.1038/npp.2009.185
PMCID: PMC3055606  PMID: 19940844
impulsive; compulsive; endophenotypes; serotonin; dopamine; Cognition; Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences; Animal models; Biological Psychiatry; OCD; impulsivity; compulsivity; translational
13.  Psychopathic Heroin Addicts are not Uniformly Impaired across Neurocognitive Domains of Impulsivity 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2010;114(2-3):194-200.
Background
Impulsivity is a hallmark characteristic of drug addiction and a prominent feature of externalizing disorders such as psychopathy that are commonly comorbid with drug addiction. In a previous study (Vassileva et al., 2007) we have shown that psychopathic heroin addicts evidence more impulsive decision-making on the Iowa Gambling Task relative to non-psychopathic heroin addicts. The goal of the current study was to investigate whether the observed impulse-control deficits in psychopathic heroin addicts would generalize to other neurocognitive domains of impulsivity, such as delay discounting and behavioral inhibition among a group of relatively “pure” heroin addicts in Bulgaria who participated in our previous study.
Methods
We tested 92 currently abstinent male heroin addicts, classified as psychopathic or non-psychopathic based on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist – Revised (PCL-R). We administered two neurocognitive tasks of impulsivity: (1) Delayed Rewards Discounting Task, a measure of temporal discounting of rewards; and (2) Passive Avoidance Learning Task, a measure of behavioral inhibition.
Results
Psychopathic heroin addicts were not impaired relative to non-psychopathic heroin addicts on the Delayed Rewards Discounting Task and the Passive Avoidance Learning Task, on the latter of which they showed better attentional capacity.
Conclusions
These results indicate that psychopathic heroin users are not uniformly impaired across neurocognitive domains of impulsivity. Combined with our previous findings, these results suggest that the presence of psychopathy may exacerbate decision-making deficits in psychopathic heroin addicts, but it may not have significant effect on other neurocognitive domains of impulsivity in this population.
doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.09.021
PMCID: PMC3062675  PMID: 21112701
impulsivity; heroin addiction; psychopathy; decision-making; delay discounting; behavioral inhibition
14.  Isolating the delay component of impulsive choice in adolescent rats 
Impulsive choice—the preference for small immediate rewards over larger delayed rewards—has been linked to various psychological conditions ranging from behavioral disorders to addiction. These links highlight the critical need to dissect the various components of this multifaceted behavioral trait. Delay discounting tasks allow researchers to study an important factor of this behavior: how the subjective value of a rewards changes over a delay period. However, existing methods of delay discounting include a confound of different reward sizes within the procedure. Here we present a new approach of using a single constant reward size to assess delay discounting. A complementary approach could hold delay constant and assess the utility of changing quantities of a reward. Isolating these behavioral components can advance our ability to explore the behavioral complexity of impulsive choice. We present in detail the methods for isolating delay, and further capitalize on this method by pairing it with a standard peak interval task to test whether individual variation in delay discounting can be explained by differences in perception of time in male and female adolescent rats. We find that rats that were more precise in discriminating time intervals were also less impulsive in their choice. Our data suggest that differences in timing and delay discounting are not causally related, but instead are more likely influenced by a common factor. Further, the mean-level change in our measure between post-natal day 28 and 42 suggests this test may be capturing a developmental change in this factor. In summary, this new method of isolating individual components of impulsive choice (delay or quantity) can be efficiently applied in either adolescent or adult animal models and may help elucidate the mechanisms underlying impulsivity and its links to psychological disorders.
doi:10.3389/fnint.2014.00003
PMCID: PMC3902300  PMID: 24478644
impulsive choice; delay discounting; peak interval; adolescence; sex differences
15.  Dissociable effects of monoamine reuptake inhibitors on distinct forms of impulsive behavior in rats 
Psychopharmacology  2011;219(2):313-326.
Rationale
High levels of impulsivity are a core symptom of psychiatric disorders such as ADHD, mania, personality disorders and drug addiction. The effectiveness of drugs targeting dopamine (DA), noradrenaline (NA) and/or serotonin (5-HT) in the treatment of impulse control disorders emphasizes the role of monoaminergic neurotransmission in impulsivity. However, impulsive behavior is behaviorally and neurally heterogeneous, and several caveats remain in our understanding of the role of monoamines in impulse control.
Objectives
This study aims to investigate the role of DA, NA and 5-HT in two main behavioral dimensions of impulsivity.
Methods
The effects of selective DA (GBR12909; 2.5–10 mg/kg), NA (atomoxetine; 0.3–3.0 mg/kg) and 5-HT (citalopram; 0.3–3.0 mg/kg) reuptake inhibitors as well as amphetamine (0.25–1.0 mg/kg) were evaluated on impulsive action in the five-choice serial reaction time task (5-CSRTT) and impulsive choice in the delayed reward task (DRT). In the 5-CSRTT, neuropharmacological challenges were performed under baseline and long intertrial interval (ITI) conditions to enhance impulsive behavior in the task.
Results
Amphetamine and GBR12909 increased impulsive action and perseverative responding and decreased accuracy and response latency in the 5-CSRTT. Atomoxetine increased errors of omission and response latency under baseline conditions in the 5-CSRTT. Under a long ITI, atomoxetine also reduced premature and perseverative responding and increased accuracy. Citalopram improved impulse control in the 5-CSRTT. Amphetamine and GBR12909, but not citalopram or atomoxetine, reduced impulsive choice in the DRT.
Conclusions
Elevation of DA neurotransmission increases impulsive action and reduces impulsive choice. Increasing NA or 5-HT neurotransmission reduces impulsive action.
doi:10.1007/s00213-011-2576-x
PMCID: PMC3249190  PMID: 22134476
Impulsivity; Delayed reward; Five-choice serial reaction time task; Dopamine; Serotonin; Noradrenaline
16.  Polymorphic variation in the dopamine D4 receptor predicts delay discounting as a function of childhood socioeconomic status: evidence for differential susceptibility 
Inconsistent or null findings among studies associating behaviors on the externalizing spectrum—addictions, impulsivity, risk-taking, novelty-seeking traits—with presence of the 7-repeat allele of a common length polymorphism in the gene encoding the dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) may stem from individuals’ variable exposures to prominent environmental moderators (gene × environment interaction). Here, we report that relative preference for immediate, smaller rewards over larger rewards delayed in time (delay discounting), a behavioral endophenotype of impulsive decision-making, varied by interaction of DRD4 genotype with childhood socioeconomic status (SES) among 546 mid-life community volunteers. Independent of age, sex, adulthood SES and IQ, participants who were both raised in families of distinctly low SES (low parental education and occupational grade) and carried the DRD4 7-repeat allele discounted future rewards more steeply than like-reared counterparts of alternate DRD4 genotype. In the absence of childhood socioeconomic disadvantage, however, participants carrying the 7-repeat allele discounted future rewards less steeply. This bidirectional association of DRD4 genotype with temporal discounting, conditioned by participants’ early life circumstances, accords with a recently proposed developmental model of gene × environment interaction (‘differential susceptibility’) that posits genetically modulated sensitivity to both adverse and salubrious environmental influences.
doi:10.1093/scan/nss020
PMCID: PMC3682430  PMID: 22345368
gene–environment interaction; differential susceptibility; delay discounting; DRD4; childhood socioeconomic status; impulsivity
17.  Thorndike's Law 2.0: Dopamine and the Regulation of Thrift 
Dopamine is widely associated with reward, motivation, and reinforcement learning. Research on dopamine has emphasized its contribution to compulsive behaviors, such as addiction and overeating, with less examination of its potential role in behavioral flexibility in normal, non-pathological states. In the study reviewed here, we investigated the effect of increased tonic dopamine in a two-lever homecage operant paradigm where the relative value of the levers was dynamic, requiring the mice to constantly monitor reward outcome and adapt their behavior. The data were fit to a temporal difference learning model that showed that mice with elevated dopamine exhibited less coupling between reward history and behavioral choice. This work suggests a way to integrate motivational and learning theories of dopamine into a single formal model where tonic dopamine regulates the expression of prior reward learning by controlling the degree to which learned reward values bias behavioral choice. Here I place these results in a broader context of dopamine's role in instrumental learning and suggest a novel hypothesis that tonic dopamine regulates thrift, the degree to which an animal needs to exploit its prior reward learning to maximize return on energy expenditure. Our data suggest that increased dopamine decreases thriftiness, facilitating energy expenditure, and permitting greater exploration. Conversely, this implies that decreased dopamine increases thriftiness, favoring the exploitation of prior reward learning, and diminishing exploration. This perspective provides a different window onto the role dopamine may play in behavioral flexibility and its failure, compulsive behavior.
doi:10.3389/fnins.2012.00116
PMCID: PMC3415691  PMID: 22905023
J; reward; reinforcement learning; explore-exploit; temporal difference; incentive-salience
18.  Dopamine agonists and risk: impulse control disorders in Parkinson's; disease 
Brain  2011;134(5):1438-1446.
Impulse control disorders are common in Parkinson's; disease, occurring in 13.6% of patients. Using a pharmacological manipulation and a novel risk taking task while performing functional magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated the relationship between dopamine agonists and risk taking in patients with Parkinson's; disease with and without impulse control disorders. During functional magnetic resonance imaging, subjects chose between two choices of equal expected value: a ‘Sure’ choice and a ‘Gamble’ choice of moderate risk. To commence each trial, in the ‘Gain’ condition, individuals started at $0 and in the ‘Loss’ condition individuals started at −$50 below the ‘Sure’ amount. The difference between the maximum and minimum outcomes from each gamble (i.e. range) was used as an index of risk (‘Gamble Risk’). Sixteen healthy volunteers were behaviourally tested. Fourteen impulse control disorder (problem gambling or compulsive shopping) and 14 matched Parkinson's; disease controls were tested ON and OFF dopamine agonists. Patients with impulse control disorder made more risky choices in the ‘Gain’ relative to the ‘Loss’ condition along with decreased orbitofrontal cortex and anterior cingulate activity, with the opposite observed in Parkinson's; disease controls. In patients with impulse control disorder, dopamine agonists were associated with enhanced sensitivity to risk along with decreased ventral striatal activity again with the opposite in Parkinson's; disease controls. Patients with impulse control disorder appear to have a bias towards risky choices independent of the effect of loss aversion. Dopamine agonists enhance sensitivity to risk in patients with impulse control disorder possibly by impairing risk evaluation in the striatum. Our results provide a potential explanation of why dopamine agonists may lead to an unconscious bias towards risk in susceptible individuals.
doi:10.1093/brain/awr080
PMCID: PMC3097893  PMID: 21596771
Parkinson's; disease; dopamine; gambling; decision making; risk
19.  Mu and Delta Opioid Receptors Oppositely Regulate Motor Impulsivity in the Signaled Nose Poke Task 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(2):e4410.
Impulsivity is a primary feature of many psychiatric disorders, most notably attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and drug addiction. Impulsivity includes a number of processes such as the inability to delay gratification, the inability to withhold a motor response, or acting before all of the relevant information is available. These processes are mediated by neural systems that include dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, glutamate and cannabinoids. We examine, for the first time, the role of opioid systems in impulsivity by testing whether inactivation of the mu- (Oprm1) or delta- (Oprd1) opioid receptor gene alters motor impulsivity in mice. Wild-type and knockout mice were examined on either a pure C57BL6/J (BL6) or a hybrid 50% C57Bl/6J–50% 129Sv/pas (HYB) background. Mice were trained to respond for sucrose in a signaled nose poke task that provides independent measures of associative learning (responses to the reward-paired cue) and motor impulsivity (premature responses). Oprm1 knockout mice displayed a remarkable decrease in motor impulsivity. This was observed on the two genetic backgrounds and did not result from impaired associative learning, as responses to the cue signaling reward did not differ across genotypes. Furthermore, mutant mice were insensitive to the effects of ethanol, which increased disinhibition and decreased conditioned responding in wild-type mice. In sharp contrast, mice lacking the Oprd1 gene were more impulsive than controls. Again, mutant animals showed no deficit in associative learning. Ethanol completely disrupted performance in these animals. Together, our results suggest that mu-opioid receptors enhance, whereas delta-opioid receptors inhibit, motor impulsivity. This reveals an unanticipated contribution of endogenous opioid receptor activity to disinhibition. In a broader context, these data suggest that alterations in mu- or delta-opioid receptor function may contribute to impulse control disorders.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004410
PMCID: PMC2635474  PMID: 19198656
20.  Shifts in reinforcement signalling while playing slot-machines as a function of prior experience and impulsivity 
Translational Psychiatry  2013;3(1):e213-.
Electronic gaming machines (EGMs) offer significant revenue streams for mercantile gambling. However, limited clinical and experimental evidence suggests that EGMs are associated with heightened risks of clinically problematic patterns of play. Little is known about the neural structures that might mediate the transition from exploratory EGM play to the ‘addictive' play seen in problem gamblers; neither is it known how personality traits associated with gambling activity (and gambling problems) influence reinforcement processing while playing EGMs. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging in healthy participants, we show that a single episode of slot-machine play is subsequently associated with reduced amplitudes of blood-oxygenation-level-dependent signals within reinforcement-related structures, such as the ventral striatum and caudate nucleus, following winning game outcomes; but increased amplitudes of anticipatory signals within the ventral striatum and amygdala while watching the game reels spin. Trait impulsivity enhanced positive signals within the ventral striatum and amygdala following the delivery of winning outcomes but diminished positive signals following the experience of almost-winning ('near-misses'). These results indicate that a single episode of slot-machine play engages the well-characterised reinforcement-learning mechanisms mediated by ascending dopamine mesolimbic and mesostriatal pathways, to shift reward value of EGMs away from game outcomes towards anticipatory states. Impulsivity, itself linked to problem gambling and heightened vulnerability to other addictive disorders, is associated with divergent coding of winning outcomes and almost-winning experiences within the ventral striatum and amygdala, potentially enhancing the reward value of successful slot-machine game outcomes but, at the same time, modulating the aversive motivational consequences of near-miss outcomes.
doi:10.1038/tp.2012.134
PMCID: PMC3566715  PMID: 23321810
dopamine; electronic gaming devices (EGMs); impulsivity; near-misses; reinforcement learning; slot-machines
21.  Investigating the behavioral and self-report constructs of impulsivity domains using principal component analysis 
Behavioural Pharmacology  2009;20(5-6):390-399.
Impulsivity, often defined as a human behavior characterized by the inclination of an individual to act on urge rather than thought, with diminished regard to consequences, encompasses a range of maladaptive behaviors which are in turn affected by distinct neural systems. Congruent with the above definition, behavioral studies have consistently shown that the underlying construct of impulsivity is multidimensional in nature. However, research to date has been inconclusive regarding the different domains or constructs that constitute this behavior. In addition there is also no clear consensus as to whether self-report and laboratory based measures of impulsivity measure the same or different domains. The current study aimed to: 1) characterize the underlying multidimensional construct of impulsivity using a sample with varying degrees of putative impulsivity related to substance misuse, including subjects who were at-risk of substance use or addicted (ARA), and 2) assess relationships between self-report and laboratory measures of impulsivity, using a principal component-based factor analysis. In addition, our supplementary goal was to evaluate the structural constructs of impulsivity within each group separately (healthy and ARA). We used five self-report measures (Behavioral Inhibition System/Behavioral Activation System (BIS/BAS), Barratt Impulsivity Scale-11, Padua Inventory, Zuckerman Sensation Seeking Scale (SSS), and Sensitivity to Punishment and Sensitivity to Reward Questionnaire) and two computer based laboratory tasks (Balloon Analog Risk Task and the Experiential Delay Task) to measure aspects of impulsivity in a total of 176 adult subjects. Subjects included healthy controls (N=89), non-alcoholic subjects with family histories of alcoholism (FHP; N=36) and both former (N=20) and current (N=31) cocaine users. Subjects with a family history of alcoholism and cocaine abusers were grouped together as “at-risk/addicted” (ARA) to evaluate our supplementary goal. Our overall results revealed the multidimensional nature of the impulsivity construct as captured optimally through a five factor solution that accounted for nearly 70% of the total variance. The five factors/components were imputed as follows “Self-Reported Behavioral Activation”, “Self-Reported Compulsivity and Reward/Punishment”, “Self-Reported Impulsivity”, “Behavioral Temporal Discounting” and “Behavioral Risk-Taking.” We also found that contrary to previously published reports, there was significant overlap between certain laboratory and self-report measures, indicating that they might be measuring the same impulsivity domain. In addition, our supplemental analysis also suggested that the impulsivity constructs were largely, but not entirely the same within the healthy and ARA groups.
doi:10.1097/FBP.0b013e32833113a3
PMCID: PMC3268653  PMID: 19724194
impulsivity; behavior; substance abuse; cocaine; alcohol; factor analysis; PCA; BIS-BAS; BIS-11; EDT; BART; Zuckerman; SPSRQ; human
22.  Early Social Experience Is Critical for the Development of Cognitive Control and Dopamine Modulation of Prefrontal Cortex Function 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2013;38(8):1485-1494.
Social experiences during youth are thought to be critical for proper social and cognitive development. Conversely, social insults during development can cause long-lasting behavioral impairments and increase the vulnerability for psychopathology later in life. To investigate the importance of social experience during the juvenile and early adolescent stage for the development of cognitive control capacities, rats were socially isolated from postnatal day 21 to 42 followed by re-socialization until they reached adulthood. Subsequently, two behavioral dimensions of impulsivity (impulsive action in the five-choice serial reaction time task (5-CSRTT) and impulsive choice in the delayed reward task) and decision making (in the rat gambling task) were assessed. In a separate group of animals, long-lasting cellular and synaptic changes in adult medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) pyramidal neurons were determined following social isolation. Juvenile and early adolescent social isolation resulted in impairments in impulsive action and decision making under novel or challenging circumstances. Moreover, socially isolated rats had a reduced response to enhancement of dopaminergic neurotransmission (using amphetamine or GBR12909) in the 5-CSRTT under challenging conditions. Impulsive choice was not affected by social isolation. These behavioral deficits were accompanied by a loss of sensitivity to dopamine of pyramidal neurons in the medial PFC. Our data show long-lasting deleterious effects of early social isolation on cognitive control and its neural substrates. Alterations in prefrontal cognitive control mechanisms may contribute to the enhanced risk for psychiatric disorders induced by aberrations in the early social environment.
doi:10.1038/npp.2013.47
PMCID: PMC3682143  PMID: 23403694
adolescence; cognition; decision making; development/developmental disorders; dopamine; impulsivity; Neurophysiology; prefrontal cortex; Social isolation; social isolation; adolescence; prefrontal cortex; impulsivity; decision making; dopamine
23.  Attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder and reward deficiency syndrome 
Molecular genetic studies have identified several genes that may mediate susceptibility to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A consensus of the literature suggests that when there is a dysfunction in the “brain reward cascade,” especially in the dopamine system, causing a low or hypo-dopaminergic trait, the brain may require dopamine for individuals to avoid unpleasant feelings. This high-risk genetic trait leads to multiple drug-seeking behaviors, because the drugs activate release of dopamine, which can diminish abnormal cravings. Moreover, this genetic trait is due in part to a form of a gene (DRD2 A1 allele) that prevents the expression of the normal laying down of dopamine receptors in brain reward sites. This gene, and others involved in neurophysiological processing of specific neurotransmitters, have been associated with deficient functions and predispose individuals to have a high risk for addictive, impulsive, and compulsive behavioral propensities. It has been proposed that genetic variants of dopaminergic genes and other “reward genes” are important common determinants of reward deficiency syndrome (RDS), which we hypothesize includes ADHD as a behavioral subtype. We further hypothesize that early diagnosis through genetic polymorphic identification in combination with DNA-based customized nutraceutical administration to young children may attenuate behavioral symptoms associated with ADHD. Moreover, it is concluded that dopamine and serotonin releasers might be useful therapeutic adjuncts for the treatment of other RDS behavioral subtypes, including addictions.
PMCID: PMC2626918  PMID: 19183781
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); genes; reward dependence; reward deficiency syndrome; treatment; neuropsychological deficits
24.  Dopamine Receptor Blockade Attenuates the General Incentive Motivational Effects of Noncontingently Delivered Rewards and Reward-Paired Cues Without Affecting Their Ability to Bias Action Selection 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2011;37(2):508-519.
Environmental cues affect our behavior in a variety of ways. Despite playing an invaluable role in guiding our daily activities, such cues also appear to trigger the harmful, compulsive behaviors that characterize addiction and other disorders of behavioral control. In instrumental conditioning, rewards and reward-paired cues bias action selection and invigorate reward-seeking behaviors, and appear to do so through distinct neurobehavioral processes. Although reward-paired cues are known to invigorate performance through a dopamine-dependent incentive motivational process, it is not known if dopamine also mediates the influence of rewards and reward-paired cues over action selection. The current study contrasted the effects of systemic administration of the nonspecific dopamine receptor antagonist flupentixol on response invigoration and action bias in Pavlovian–instrumental transfer, a test of cue-elicited responding, and in instrumental reinstatement, a test of noncontingent reward-elicited responding. Hungry rats were trained on two different stimulus–outcome relationships (eg, tone–grain pellets and noise–sucrose solution) and two different action–outcome relationships (eg, left press–grain and right press–sucrose). At test, we found that flupentixol pretreatment blocked the response invigoration generated by the cues but spared their ability to bias action selection to favor the action whose outcome was signaled by the cue being presented. The response-biasing influence of noncontingent reward deliveries was also unaffected by flupentixol. Interestingly, although flupentixol had a modest effect on the immediate response invigoration produced by those rewards, it was particularly potent in countering the lingering enhancement of responding produced by multiple reward deliveries. These findings indicate that dopamine mediates the general incentive motivational effects of noncontingent rewards and reward-paired cues but does not support their ability to bias action selection.
doi:10.1038/npp.2011.217
PMCID: PMC3242312  PMID: 21918507
incentive motivation; reward; free operant; Pavlovian; dopamine; behavioral science; animal models; dopamine; learning & memory; incentive motivation; reward; free operant; pavlovian
25.  A Kinetic Model of Dopamine- and Calcium-Dependent Striatal Synaptic Plasticity 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(2):e1000670.
Corticostriatal synapse plasticity of medium spiny neurons is regulated by glutamate input from the cortex and dopamine input from the substantia nigra. While cortical stimulation alone results in long-term depression (LTD), the combination with dopamine switches LTD to long-term potentiation (LTP), which is known as dopamine-dependent plasticity. LTP is also induced by cortical stimulation in magnesium-free solution, which leads to massive calcium influx through NMDA-type receptors and is regarded as calcium-dependent plasticity. Signaling cascades in the corticostriatal spines are currently under investigation. However, because of the existence of multiple excitatory and inhibitory pathways with loops, the mechanisms regulating the two types of plasticity remain poorly understood. A signaling pathway model of spines that express D1-type dopamine receptors was constructed to analyze the dynamic mechanisms of dopamine- and calcium-dependent plasticity. The model incorporated all major signaling molecules, including dopamine- and cyclic AMP-regulated phosphoprotein with a molecular weight of 32 kDa (DARPP32), as well as AMPA receptor trafficking in the post-synaptic membrane. Simulations with dopamine and calcium inputs reproduced dopamine- and calcium-dependent plasticity. Further in silico experiments revealed that the positive feedback loop consisted of protein kinase A (PKA), protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A), and the phosphorylation site at threonine 75 of DARPP-32 (Thr75) served as the major switch for inducing LTD and LTP. Calcium input modulated this loop through the PP2B (phosphatase 2B)-CK1 (casein kinase 1)-Cdk5 (cyclin-dependent kinase 5)-Thr75 pathway and PP2A, whereas calcium and dopamine input activated the loop via PKA activation by cyclic AMP (cAMP). The positive feedback loop displayed robust bi-stable responses following changes in the reaction parameters. Increased basal dopamine levels disrupted this dopamine-dependent plasticity. The present model elucidated the mechanisms involved in bidirectional regulation of corticostriatal synapses and will allow for further exploration into causes and therapies for dysfunctions such as drug addiction.
Author Summary
Recent brain imaging and neurophysiological studies suggest that the striatum, the start of the basal ganglia circuit, plays a major role in value-based decision making and behavioral disorders such as drug addiction. The plasticity of synaptic input from the cerebral cortex to output neurons of the striatum, which are medium spiny neurons, depends on interactions between glutamate input from the cortex and dopaminergic input from the midbrain. It also links sensory and cognitive states in the cortex with reward-oriented action outputs. The mechanisms involved in molecular cascades that transmit glutamate and dopamine inputs to changes in postsynaptic glutamate receptors are very complex and it is difficult to intuitively understand the mechanism. Therefore, a biochemical network model was constructed, and computer simulations were performed. The model reproduced dopamine-dependent and calcium-dependent forms of long-term depression (LTD) and potentiation (LTP) of corticostriatal synapses. Further in silico experiments revealed that a positive feedback loop formed by proteins, the protein specifically expressed in the striatum, served as the major switch for inducing LTD and LTP. This model could allow us to understand dynamic constraints in reward-dependent learning, as well as causes and therapies of dopamine-related disorders such as drug addiction.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000670
PMCID: PMC2820521  PMID: 20169176

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