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Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Jan 1;75(1):31-7. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.02.024. Epub 2013 Apr 10.

Impulsivity is associated with uric acid: evidence from humans and mice.

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Department of Medical Humanities and Social Sciences, Florida State University College of Medicine, Tallahassee, Florida; Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience, National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Maryland; Laboratory of Neuroscience, National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Electronic address:



The ability to control impulses varies greatly, and difficulty with impulse control can have severe consequences; in the extreme, it is the defining feature of many psychiatric disorders. Evidence from disparate lines of research suggests that uric acid is elevated in psychiatric disorders characterized by high impulsivity, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder. The present research tests the hypothesis that impulsivity is associated with higher uric acid in humans and mice.


Using two longitudinal, nonclinical community samples (total n = 6883), we tested whether there is an association between uric acid and normal variation in trait impulsivity measured with the Revised NEO Personality Inventory. We also examined the effect of uric acid on behavior by comparing wild-type mice, which naturally have low levels of uric acid, with mice genetically modified to accumulate high levels of uric acid.


In both human samples, the emotional aspects of trait impulsivity, specifically impulsiveness and excitement seeking, were associated with higher levels of uric acid concurrently and when uric acid was measured 3 to 5 years later. Consistent with the human data, the genetically modified mice displayed significantly more exploratory and novelty-seeking behavior than the wild-type mice.


Higher uric acid was associated with impulsivity in both humans and mice. The identification of biological markers of impulsivity may lead to a better understanding of the physiological mechanisms involved in impulsivity and may suggest potential targets for therapeutic intervention.


Excitement seeking; impulse control; impulsivity; mouse model; personality traits; uric acid

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