Time perception and impulsivity: A proposed relationship in addictive disorders

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2019 Nov;106:182-201. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.12.006. Epub 2018 Dec 6.


Addictive disorders are characterized by impulsive behavior that leads to difficulties in preventing certain behaviors despite negative consequences. This symptom predisposes to a vulnerability in developing addictive disorders and is also aggravated by the addiction process itself. As such, understanding the underlying mechanisms of impulsivity is a challenge for understanding the pathophysiology of addiction. One common link between impulsivity and addiction is that both involve actions and decisions that are realized faster than they should be in time. Impulsive traits increase the tendency to choose immediate gratification instead of delayed gratification even when preferred. This observation suggests a relationship between impulsivity and time processing. To better understand this relationship, we reviewed the literature that describes the relationship between time processing and impulsivity in addictive disorders in humans. Despite a lack of literature concerning this question in alcohol, cannabis and gambling disorders, we highlight that addictive behaviors are a good model for understanding the pathophysiology of impulsivity, and could help us to better understand the relationship between time perception and impulsivity.

Keywords: Addictive disorders; Cognition; Impulsivity; Time processing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology*
  • Delay Discounting / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*