Scientific Discoveries


  • In rats, individual differences in impulsivity using a delay discounting task predict methylphenidate self-administration (Marusich et al., 2009).
  • Similar to humans, rats can be assessed for “urgency” using an operant conditioning task in which responding is measured after the omission of an expected reward (Gipson et al., 2012). Following omission of the expected reward, rats increase self-administration of amphetamine.
  • In humans, high sensation seekers showed stronger function magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) responses to emotionally arousing stimuli in brain regions associated with arousal and reinforcement (right insula, posterior medial orbitofrontal) compared to low sensation seekers (Joseph et al., 2008), suggesting that high sensation seekers have an overactive approach system.
  • The biologically-based experience-seeking component of sensation seeking is positively associated with structural volume in the right anterior hippocampus, a region associated with the assessment of novelty in neuroimaging studies (Martin et al, 2007).
  • During repeated visual exposure, cortical evoked potential responses were correlated with sensation seeking status (Jiang et al., 2007), suggesting possible biomarkers that can be used for development and evaluation of prevention strategies among vulnerable individuals.
  • Using a hierarchical multiple regression analysis from a large sample of rats, individual differences in novelty seeking predicted the rate of amphetamine self-administration (Cain et al., 2005).
  • Similar to the individual differences observed in rats, amphetamine produced greater magnitude of effects on psychomotor performance and subjective reports of drug effect in high sensation seeking human subjects (Kelly et al., 2006), who also self-administer greater amounts of drug (Stoops et al., 2007). High sensation seekers were also more sensitive to both the reinforcing and to the performance-impairing effects of alcohol, diazepam, and nicotine, suggesting an increased vulnerability to a variety of drugs.
  • High sensation seeking is associated with strong approach behaviors and weak avoidance responses. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to characterize the neurobiological underpinnings of activation and inhibition using a Go/No-go task. Analysis of brain activation associated with response inhibition (No-go) versus activation (Go) revealed the commonly reported right lateral prefrontal, insula, cingulate, and supplementary motor area network. However, right lateral activation was associated with greater No-go than Go responses only in low sensation seekers. High sensation seekers showed no differential activation in these regions but a more pronounced Go compared to No-go response in several other regions that are involved in salience detection (insula), motor initiation (anterior cingulated) and attention (inferior parietal cortex). Temporal analysis of the hemodynamic response for Go and No-go conditions revealed that high sensation seekers showed a stronger response to Go than No-go trials in the earliest time window. These findings indicate that high sensation seekers attend selectively to the Go condition and show delayed inhibitory responses on No-go trials. Failure to engage such regions for response inhibition may underlie some of the risky and impulsive behaviors observed in high sensation seekers. (Collins et al, 2012)
  • Negative Urgency is an important predictor of alcohol use/misuse, even beyond what is accounted for by traditional measures of negative affect such as distress tolerance (Kaiser et al., 2012).
  • This study highlights the unique motivational pathways through which Negative Urgency and Sensation Seeking may operate, suggesting that interventions aimed at preventing problematic drinking should be tailored to individuals' personalities. (Adams et al,, 2012).
  • Charnigo et al (2011) consider the problem of modeling jointly trajectories for two or more possibly non-normally distributed dependent variables, such as marijuana smoking and risky sexual activity, collected longitudinally. They describe three analytic approaches: generalized linear mixed modeling, group-based trajectory modeling, and latent growth curve modeling.They identify the strengths and weaknesses of these analytic approaches and assess their impact (or lack thereof) on the psychological and behavioral science literature.