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BACKGROUND: Impulsivity is a multifaceted personality construct associated with numerous psychiatric disorders. Recent research has characterized four facets of impulsivity: "urgency" (the tendency to act rashly especially in the context of distress or cravings); "lack of premeditation" (not envisaging the consequences of actions); "lack of perseverance" (not staying focused on a task); and "sensation seeking" (engaging in exciting activities). Urgency is particularly associated with clinical populations and problematic disinhibited behavior. METHODS: We used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to measure concentration of the inhibitory neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in two cohorts of 12 and 13 participants. RESULTS: We find that variation in trait urgency in healthy men correlates with GABA concentration in the DLPFC. The result was replicated in an independent cohort. More GABA predicted lower urgency scores, consistent with a role in self-control for GABA-mediated inhibitory mechanisms in DLPFC. CONCLUSIONS: These findings help account for individual differences in self-control and thus clarify the relationship between GABA and a wide range of psychiatric disorders associated with impaired self-control.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.05.030

Type

Journal article

Journal

Biol Psychiatry

Publication Date

01/11/2011

Volume

70

Pages

866 - 872

Keywords

Adult, Cohort Studies, Exploratory Behavior, Frontal Lobe, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Impulsive Behavior, Individuality, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Male, Motor Cortex, Neuropsychological Tests, Parietal Lobe, Personality, Predictive Value of Tests, Prefrontal Cortex, Young Adult, gamma-Aminobutyric Acid