Human impulsivity is a complex multidimensional construct encompassing cognitive, emotional, and behavioural aspects. Previous animal studies have suggested that striatal dopamine receptors play a critical role in impulsivity. In this study, we investigated the relationship between self-reported impulsiveness and dopamine D2/3 receptor availability in striatal subdivisions in healthy subjects using high-resolution positron emission tomography (PET) with [11C]raclopride.
Twenty-one participants completed 3-T magnetic resonance imaging and high-resolution PET scans with [11C]raclopride. The trait of impulsiveness was measured using the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11). Partial correlation analysis was performed between BIS-11 scores and D2/3 receptor availability in striatal subregions, controlling for the confounding effects of temperament characteristics that are conceptually or empirically related to dopamine, which were measured by the Temperament and Character Inventory.
The analysis revealed that the non-planning (p = 0.004) and attentional (p = 0.007) impulsiveness subscale scores on the BIS-11 had significant positive correlations with D2/3 receptor availability in the pre-commissural dorsal caudate. There was a tendency towards positive correlation between non-planning impulsiveness score and D2/3 receptor availability in the post-commissural caudate.
These results suggest that cognitive subtrait of impulsivity is associated with D2/3 receptor availability in the associative striatum that plays a critical role in cognitive processes involving attention to detail, judgement of alternative outcomes, and inhibitory control.