Computational psychiatry of impulsivity and risk: How risk and time preferences interact in health and disease

Silvia Lopez-Guzman, Anna B. Konova, Paul W. Glimcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Choice impulsivity is an important subcomponent of the broader construct of impulsivity and is a key feature of many psychiatric disorders. Choice impulsivity is typically quantified as temporal discounting, a well-documented phenomenon in which a reward's subjective value diminishes as the delay to its delivery is increased. However, an individual's proclivity to-or more commonly aversion to-risk can influence nearly all of the standard experimental tools available for measuring temporal discounting. Despite this interaction, risk preference is a behaviourally and neurobiologically distinct construct that relates to the economic notion of utility or subjective value. In this opinion piece, we discuss the mathematical relationship between risk preferences and time preferences, their neural implementation, and propose ways that research in psychiatry could, and perhaps should, aim to account for this relationship experimentally to better understand choice impulsivity and its clinical implications. This article is part of the theme issue 'Risk taking and impulsive behaviour: fundamental discoveries, theoretical perspectives and clinical implications'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20180135
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1766
StatePublished - 2018


  • Choice impulsivity
  • Delay discounting
  • Economic models
  • Functional MRI
  • Psychiatry
  • Risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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