Behavioral and biological indicators of impulsivity in the development of alcohol use, problems, and disorders

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2010 Aug;34(8):1334-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01217.x. Epub 2010 May 14.


Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are a devastating public health problem. The construct of impulsivity is biologically based and heritable, and its various dimensions are relevant for understanding alcohol use. The goal of the current manuscript is to review recent behavioral and biological research examining various dimensions of impulsivity and their relation to AUDs from risk for initial use through dependence and relapse. Moreover, we also highlight key psychological variables including affective processes as they relate to current use and early indications of alcohol problems, as well as psychopathology, violence, and aggression in relation to AUDs. Each section includes a critical summary and we conclude the review with future directions focused on issues relevant to measurement, causality, and intervention. Throughout the review, we attempt to be as specific as possible about the dimensions of impulsivity being referenced, while attempting to draw parallels and highlighting differences as the existing literature allows.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / genetics
  • Alcohol Drinking / pathology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / genetics
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / pathology
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / etiology
  • Alcoholism / genetics
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / complications
  • Impulsive Behavior / genetics
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Risk Factors