Similar effects of the selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor atomoxetine on three distinct forms of impulsivity in the rat

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2008 Apr;33(5):1028-37. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1301487. Epub 2007 Jul 18.


Atomoxetine is a noradrenaline-specific reuptake inhibitor used clinically for the treatment of childhood and adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Studies in human volunteers and patient groups have shown that atomoxetine improves stop-signal reaction time (SSRT) performance, an effect consistent with a reduction in motor impulsivity. However, ADHD is a heterogeneous disorder and it is of interest to determine whether atomoxetine is similarly effective against other forms of impulsivity, as well as the attentional impairment present in certain subtypes of ADHD. The present study examined the effects of atomoxetine on impulsivity using an analogous SSRT task in rats and two additional tests of impulsivity; delay discounting of reward and the five-choice serial reaction time task (5CSRTT), the latter providing an added assessment of sustained visual attention. Atomoxetine produced a significant dose-dependent speeding of SSRT. In addition, atomoxetine produced a selective, dose-dependent decrease in premature responding on the 5CSRTT. Finally, on the delay-discounting task, atomoxetine significantly decreased impulsivity by increasing preference for the large-value reward across increasing delay. These findings conclusively demonstrate that atomoxetine decreases several distinct forms of impulsivity in rats. The apparent contrast of these effects with stimulant drugs such as amphetamine and methylphenidate, which generally act to increase impulsivity on the 5CSRTT, may provide new insights into the mechanisms of action of stimulant and nonstimulant drugs in ADHD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Choice Behavior / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Impulsive Behavior / classification*
  • Impulsive Behavior / drug therapy*
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Male
  • Propylamines / therapeutic use*
  • Rats
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Task Performance and Analysis


  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors
  • Propylamines
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride