Impulsivity modulates performance under response uncertainty in a reaching task

Experimental Brain Research - 2013-03-01Tzagarakis C, Pellizzer G, Rogers RD10.1007/s00221-012-3363-6
We sought to explore the interaction of the impulsivity trait with response uncertainty. To this end, we used a reaching task (Pellizzer and Hedges in Exp Brain Res 150:276-289, 2003) where a motor response direction was cued at different levels of uncertainty (1 cue, i.e., no uncertainty, 2 cues or 3 cues). Data from 95 healthy adults (54 F, 41 M) were analysed. Impulsivity was measured using the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale version 11 (BIS-11). Behavioral variables recorded were reaction time (RT), errors of commission (referred to as 'early errors') and errors of precision. Data analysis employed generalised linear mixed models and generalised additive mixed models. For the early errors, there was an interaction of impulsivity with uncertainty and gender, with increased errors for high impulsivity in the one-cue condition for women and the three-cue condition for men. There was no effect of impulsivity on precision errors or RT. However, the analysis of the effect of RT and impulsivity on precision errors showed a different pattern for high versus low impulsives in the high uncertainty (3 cue) condition. In addition, there was a significant early error speed-accuracy trade-off for women, primarily in low uncertainty and a 'reverse' speed-accuracy trade-off for men in high uncertainty. These results extend those of past studies of impulsivity which help define it as a behavioural trait that modulates speed versus accuracy response styles depending on environmental constraints and highlight once more the importance of gender in the interplay of personality and behaviour.