Dimensions of impulsivity are associated with poor spatial working memory performance in monkeys

Alex S. James, Stephanie M. Groman, Emanuele Seu, Matthew Jorgensen, Lynn A. Fairbanks, J. David Jentsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Impulsive behavior and novelty seeking are dimensions of temperament that are behavioral determinants of risk for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and its neurocognitive endophenotypes, and variation in the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4) explains at least a portion of the variance in the traits. To further characterize the dimensional phenotype associated with impulsiveness, adolescent male monkeys were evaluated using ecologically valid tests of impulsive approach and aggression in response to social or nonsocial stimuli; subsequently, a delayed response task was implemented to assess spatial working memory performance. Subjects were selected into this study based on their response to the social challenge task or by DRD4 genotype, resulting in three groups: low-impulsivity/common DRD4 allele, high-impulsivity/common DRD4 allele, or rare DRD4 allele. All animals acquired the delayed response task and could perform at near ceiling levels when a ∼0 s delay version was imposed, but as delays were lengthened, high-impulsive animals, regardless of DRD4 genotype, made fewer correct responses than did low-impulsive subjects; an inverse relationship existed for working memory and impulsivity. Notably, impulsive behavior evoked by social and nonsocial stimuli explained overlapping and independent portions of the variance in working memory performance. CSF levels of monoamine metabolites did not significantly differentiate the high- and low-impulsive animals, although monkeys carrying the DRD4 rare allele tended to exhibit higher monoamine turnover. These data indicate that dimensions of impulsivity may impact on working memory performance in qualitatively similar ways but through different mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14358-14364
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number52
StatePublished - Dec 26 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • ADHD
  • Cognition
  • Dopamine
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Serotonin
  • Temperament


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