Impulsivity is associated with uric acid: Evidence from humans and mice

Angelina R. Sutin, Roy G. Cutler, Simonetta Camandola, Manuela Uda, Neil H. Feldman, Francesco Cucca, Alan B. Zonderman, Mark P. Mattson, Luigi Ferrucci, David Schlessinger, Antonio Terracciano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Background: 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. Methods: 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. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-37
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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