Disadvantageous decision-making on a rodent gambling task is associated with increased motor impulsivity in a population of male rats

J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2015 Mar;40(2):108-17. doi: 10.1503/jpn.140045.


Background: Impulsivity is understood as a range of behaviours, but the association between these behaviours is not well understood. Although high motor impulsivity is a key symptom of disorders like pathological gambling and addiction, in which decision-making on laboratory tasks is compromised, there have been no clear demonstrations that choice and motor impulsivity are associated in the general population. We examined this association in a large population of rodents.

Methods: We performed a meta-analysis on behavioural data from 211 manipulation-naive male animals that performed a rodent gambling task in our laboratory between 2008 and 2012. The task measures an aspect of both impulsive decision-making and impulsive action, making it possible to evaluate whether these 2 forms of maladaptive behaviour are related.

Results: Our meta-analysis revealed that motor impulsivity was positively correlated with poor decision-making under risk. Highly motor impulsive rats were slower to adopt an advantageous choice strategy and quicker to make a choice on individual trials.

Limitations: The data analyzed were limited to that produced by our laboratory and did not include data of other researchers who have used the task.

Conclusion: This work may represent the first demonstration of a clear association between choice and motor impulsivity in a nonclinical population. This lends support to the common practice of studying impulsivity in nonclinical populations to gain insight into impulse control disorders and suggests that differences in impulsive behaviours between clinical and nonclinical populations may be ones of magnitude rather than ones of quality.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Decision Making*
  • Gambling*
  • Games, Experimental
  • Impulsive Behavior*
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Rats, Long-Evans