Gamma aminobutyric acidergic and neuronal structural markers in the nucleus accumbens core underlie Trait-like impulsive behavior

Daniele Caprioli, Stephen J. Sawiak, Emiliano Merlo, David E.H. Theobald, Marcia Spoelder, Bianca Jupp, Valerie Voon, T. Adrian Carpenter, Barry J. Everitt, Trevor W. Robbins, Jeffrey W. Dalley

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Background Pathological forms of impulsivity are manifest in a number of psychiatric disorders listed in DSM-5, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and substance use disorder. However, the molecular and cellular substrates of impulsivity are poorly understood. Here, we investigated a specific form of motor impulsivity in rats, namely premature responding, on a five-choice serial reaction time task. Methods We used in vivo voxel-based magnetic resonance imaging and ex vivo Western blot analyses to investigate putative structural, neuronal, and glial protein markers in low-impulsive (LI) and high-impulsive rats. We also investigated whether messenger RNA interference targeting glutamate decarboxylase 65/67 (GAD65/67) gene expression in the nucleus accumbens core (NAcbC) is sufficient to increase impulsivity in LI rats. Results We identified structural and molecular abnormalities in the NAcbC associated with motor impulsivity in rats. We report a reduction in gray matter density in the left NAcbC of high-impulsive rats, with corresponding reductions in this region of glutamate decarboxylase (GAD65/67) and markers of dendritic spines and microtubules. We further demonstrate that the experimental reduction of de novo of GAD65/67 expression bilaterally in the NAcbC is sufficient to increase impulsivity in LI rats. Conclusions These results reveal a novel mechanism of impulsivity in rats involving gamma aminobutyric acidergic and structural abnormalities in the NAcbC with potential relevance to the etiology and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and related disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-123
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • GABA
  • impulsivity
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • nucleus accumbens
  • psychostimulants

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