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. 2018 Sep;267:368-375.
doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2018.06.013. Epub 2018 Jun 19.

Exploring the Pathophysiology of Emotion-Based Impulsivity: The Roles of the Sympathetic Nervous System and Hostile Reactivity

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Free PMC article

Exploring the Pathophysiology of Emotion-Based Impulsivity: The Roles of the Sympathetic Nervous System and Hostile Reactivity

Jessica R Peters et al. Psychiatry Res. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

The tendency to engage in impulsive behavior in the context of negative affect, known as negative urgency, has emerged as a powerful transdiagnostic predictor of behavioral dysregulation. Although general vulnerability to negative affect (neuroticism) correlates with negative urgency, not all neurotic individuals engage in urgent behavior. Given prior experimental evidence that sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activation may promote emotion-related impulsivity, the present study examines tonic SNS activity as a moderator of the link between neuroticism and negative urgency. Participants (N = 194) completed measures of neuroticism and negative urgency, as well as a stress task. They also underwent assessment of tonic SNS activity (cardiac pre-ejection period). The link between neuroticism and negative urgency was strengthened for individuals with higher tonic SNS activity; however, this was not the case for behavioral performance on the task. A similar pattern was demonstrated for hostile reactivity to the stress task; increased hostile response partially explained the interaction between SNS activation and neuroticism on negative urgency. These findings suggest a potential facilitative role of the SNS in hostile reactivity and emotion-driven impulsivity among more neurotic individuals.

Keywords: Anger; Impulsivity; Negative urgency; Neuroticism; Pre-ejection period; Shame.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Interaction of Neuroticism and Baseline Cardiac Pre-Ejection Period Predicting Negative Urgency (Interactions Between Continuous Variables Probed at −1/+1 SD). Note: PEP = Pre-Ejection Period. Lower PEP scores indicate higher levels of sympathetic nervous system activation
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Interaction of Neuroticism and Baseline Cardiac Pre-Ejection Period Predicting PASAT-Related Reactivity in Shame and Hostility (Interactions Between Continuous Variables Probed at −1/+1 SD). Note: PEP = Pre-Ejection Period. Lower PEP scores indicate higher levels of sympathetic nervous system activation.
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
Moderated Mediation Model Predicting Negative Urgency from Neuroticism via Changes in Hostility, Moderated by Pre-Ejection Period. Note: Coefficient estimates are standardized. PEP = Pre-ejection Period. Lower PEP scores indicate higher levels of sympathetic nervous system activation.

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