Rash impulsiveness and reward sensitivity in relation to risky drinking by university students: Potential roles of frontal systems

Michael Lyvers*, Helen Duff, Vanessa Basch, Mark S. Edwards

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Two forms of impulsivity, rash impulsiveness and reward sensitivity, have been proposed to reflect aspects of frontal lobe functioning and promote substance use. The present study examined these two forms of impulsivity as well as frontal lobe symptoms in relation to risky drinking by university students. Methods: University undergraduates aged 18-26. years completed the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11), Sensitivity to Punishment and Sensitivity to Reward Questionnaire (SPSRQ), Frontal Systems Behavior Scale (FrSBe), and a demographics questionnaire assessing age, gender, and age of onset of weekly drinking (AOD). Results: AUDIT-defined harmful drinkers reported earlier AOD and scored higher on BIS-11, the Sensitivity to Reward (SR) scale of the SPSRQ, and the Disinhibition and Executive Dysfunction scales of the FrSBe compared to lower risk groups. Differences remained significant after controlling for duration of alcohol exposure. Path analyses indicated that the influence of SR on AUDIT was mediated by FrSBe Disinhibition, whereas the influence of BIS-11 on AUDIT was mediated by both Disinhibition and Executive Dysfunction scales of the FrSBe. Conclusions: Findings tentatively suggest that the influence of rash impulsiveness on drinking may reflect dysfunction in dorsolateral prefrontal and orbitofrontal systems, whereas the influence of reward sensitivity on drinking may primarily reflect orbitofrontal dysfunction. Irrespective of the underlying functional brain systems involved, results appear to be more consistent with a pre-drinking trait interpretation than effects of alcohol exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)940-946
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


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