Impulsive Responses to Positive and Negative Emotions: Parallel Neurocognitive Correlates and Their Implications

Sheri L. Johnson, Matthew V. Elliott, Charles S. Carver

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Theory about the conceptual basis of psychiatric disorders has long emphasized negative emotionality. More recent ideas emphasize roles for positive emotionality and impulsivity as well. This review examines impulsive responses to positive and negative emotions, which have been labeled as urgency. Urgency is conceptually and empirically distinct from other forms of impulsivity. A large body of work indicates that urgency is more robustly related to psychopathology than are other forms of impulsivity. Researchers have considered 4 neurocognitive models of urgency: excessive emotion generation, poor emotion regulation, risky decision making, and poor cognitive control. Little evidence supports emotion generation or risky decision making as the core issues driving urgency. Rather, urgency appears related to dysfunction in key hubs implicated in the integration of cognitive control and emotion regulation (e.g., the orbitofrontal cortex and anterior insula), expressed as response inhibition deficits that emerge most robustly in high arousal contexts. These neurocognitive processes appear remarkably parallel for positive and negative urgency. We provide methodological suggestions and theoretical hypotheses to guide future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-349
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2020


  • Cognition
  • Emotion
  • Imaging
  • Impulsivity
  • Psychopathology
  • Urgency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


Dive into the research topics of 'Impulsive Responses to Positive and Negative Emotions: Parallel Neurocognitive Correlates and Their Implications'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this