Rapid-Response Impulsivity: Definitions, Measurement Issues, and Clinical Implications

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Abstract

Impulsivity is a multifaceted construct that is a core feature of multiple psychiatric conditions and personality disorders. However, progress in understanding and treating impulsivity is limited by a lack of precision and consistency in its definition and assessment. Rapid-response impulsivity (RRI) represents a tendency toward immediate action that occurs with diminished forethought and is out of context with the present demands of the environment. Experts from the International Society for Research on Impulsivity (InSRI) met to discuss and evaluate RRI measures in terms of reliability, sensitivity, and validity, with the goal of helping researchers and clinicians make informed decisions about the use and interpretation of findings from RRI measures. Their recommendations are described in this article. Commonly used clinical and preclinical RRI tasks are described, and considerations are provided to guide task selection. Tasks measuring two conceptually and neurobiologically distinct types of RRI, “refraining from action initiation” (RAI) and “stopping an ongoing action” (SOA) are described. RAI and SOA tasks capture distinct aspects of RRI that may relate to distinct clinical outcomes. The InSRI group recommends that (a) selection of RRI measures should be informed by careful consideration of the strengths, limitations, and practical considerations of the available measures; (b) researchers use both RAI and SOA tasks in RRI studies to allow for direct comparison of RRI types and examination of their associations with clinically relevant measures; and (c) similar considerations be made for human and nonhuman studies in an effort to harmonize and integrate preclinical and clinical research.

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