Melissa A. Cyders, Ph.D.

Professor, Psychology

Director of Clinical Training

LD 126B
(317) 274-6752
Research Areas:
Clinical Psychology


Emphasis: Substance Use

Multidimensionality of impulsivity

It is well established that impulsivity is a multi-faceted trait, composed of multiple separate tendencies toward risk taking. One of the overarching goals of my research program has been to better understand the separate facets underlying the construct of impulsivity and to show how the use of these separate facets leads to better prediction of risk-taking behaviors.

My research has supported the use of the UPPS-P Model of Impulsive Behavior, which posits that impulsivity is comprised of five separate, though related, traits: sensation seeking, which refers to the tendency to seek out new and exciting experiences and sensations; lack of perseverance, which refers to the tendency to not finish what one has started; lack of deliberation, which refers to the tendency to not think about things before doing them; negative urgency, which refers to the tendency to act rashly in the face of extreme negative emotions; and positive urgency, which refers to the tendency to act rashly in the face of extreme positive emotions.

Although research generally supports the role of impulsivity in multiple risk taking processes, there still remain many inconsistencies across studies. It is my view that the inconsistencies in the data have been mostly driven by two factors: (1) lack of consensus in how to best define impulsivity; and (2) use of definitions that involve multiple aspects in one measure, both of which contribute to inconsistencies and masking of important relationships. Much of my subsequent work has supported these contentions: we have shown that by using the specific UPPS-P traits, different aspects of risk taking are more reliably predicted than by using conceptualizations of impulsivity that confound many different traits. Additionally, we have found that there is very little overlap between impulsivity traits and behavioral lab tasks thought to assess impulsive action. In fact, this work suggests that the term “impulsivity” is not meaningful and that using more specific conceptualizations will avoid problems associated with the use of varied or combined conceptualizations of impulsivity.

Role of emotion-based impulsivity as a common, transdiagnostic endophenotype for maladaptive risk taking

My work has suggested that negative and positive urgency are the most clinically relevant impulsivity-related traits for a wide range of problematic levels of risk taking behaviors. Although the experience of emotions is generally adaptive and serves to motivate behaviors, extreme emotions can be maladaptive for individuals, especially when the emotions leads one to behavior that does not address the precipitating need or event of the emotional experience. The tendency to act rashly in response to extreme negative or positive emotions is associated with a wide range of maladaptive behaviors, including alcohol use and abuse, risky sexual behaviors, binge eating (negative urgency only), gambling, compulsive cellular phone use, drug use, and nicotine use. Urgency is also highly represented across multiple different categories and diagnoses in the DSM-5 and many of these clinical groups have been characterized for their high level of urgency, including Borderline Personality Disorder, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and Binge-Eating Disorder. We have suggested that urgency is a common transdiagnostic endophenotype for a wide range of maladaptive behaviors and clinical disorders that is a prime marker of mental health risk, representing increased physiological reactivity to emotional cues and an increased likelihood of responding to emotions with maladaptive and risky behaviors. Given the many criticisms of the DSM, including heterogeneity within diagnoses (leading to individuals with the same diagnosis having different behavioral manifestations) and commonality across diagnostic categories (leading to high rates of comorbidity), there is a strong movement in the field to conceptualize traits and disorders in terms of homogeneous dimensions. Use of a single score to reflect multidimensional traits or symptoms can lead to decreased ability to reliably treat, predict, and identify those at risk. Targeting urgency in treatment could lead to the development of psychotherapy or pharmacological therapies to alleviate emotion-based rash action that could be useful across many DSM-5 diagnoses.

Underlying neurobiological and neurocognitive mechanisms of emotion-based rash action

My more recent work has focused on identifying the underlying neurobiological and neurocognitive mechanisms of emotion-based rash action, with the goal of better understanding mechanisms contributing to risk in order to identify prime intervention targets. In addition to other research in this area, I have begun to examine neurocognitive mechanisms that relate to urgency. Although reviews of the literature show little overlap between urgency and behavioral neurocognitive tasks, there have been too few studies to date to establish this fact. Our initial work suggests urgency is only related to neurocognitive performance (e.g., attentional biases as measured through eye tracking) when assessed during mood states. Additionally, although work using self-reporting of mood has suggested no relationship between urgency and the experience of more extreme or labile emotions, data assessed via functional magnetic resonance imaging has suggested that negative urgency is related to increased activation in limbic regions (the left amygdala and right orbitofrontal cortex) in response to negatively valenced images, suggesting that urgency is associated with hyperactivity in limbic regions when exposed to emotional stimuli. Additionally, our work suggests that urgency is associated with hyperactivity in reward regions (ventromedial prefrontal cortex) when presented with alcohol reward cues. Importantly, the relationship between this hyperactivity and self-reported risk taking is mediated by negative urgency, suggesting that physiological hyperreactivity to emotional and reward stimuli is related to risk taking by increasing the tendency toward rash action in negative emotional states. Positive urgency has, to date, been largely unrelated to physiological reactivity to emotion or reward cues in our data.


  • 2003 B.A. Psychology, Ohio University
  • 2003 B.A. Spanish, Ohio University
  • 2005, M.S. Clinical Psychology, University of Kentucky
  • 2009 Clinical Psychology Internship, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and the University of Michigan Medical School
  • 2009 Ph.D. Clinical Psychology, University of Kentucky

Publications & Professional Activity

  1. Oberlin, B.G., Ramer N.E., Bates S.M., Shen Y.I., Myslinski J.S., Kareken D.A., Cyders M.A. (in press) Quantifying behavioral sensation seeking with the Aroma Choice Task. Assessment.
  2. Um, M., Hummer, T. A., & Cyders, M. A. (in press). Relationship of negative urgency to cingulo-insular and cortico-striatal resting state functional connectivity in tobacco use. Brain Imaging and Behavior.
  3. Halcomb, M., Argyriou, E., & Cyders, M. A. (in press). Integrating preclinical and clinical models of negative urgency. Frontiers in Psychiatry.
  4. Whitt, Z.T., Bernstein, M., Spillane, N., Stein, LA.R., Suffoletto, B., Neighbors, C., Schick, M.R., & Cyders, M.A. (in press). Positive urgency worsens the impact of normative feedback on 21st birthday drinking. Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
  5. Sanders, J., Hershberger, A. R., Cyders, M. A. (in press). The UPPS-P Model of Impulsive Behavior: Definition, Development, and Application. Invited chapter in press in V. Zeigler-Hill and T.K. Shackelford (Eds), The Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_2131-1.
  6. Um, M., & Cyders, M. A. (in press). Positive emotion-based impulsivity as a transdiagnostic endophenotype. Invited chapter in press in J. Gruber (Ed), Oxford Handbook of Positive Emotion and Psychopathology.
  7. Argyriou, E., Um, M., Wu, W., & Cyders, M. A. (in press). Measurement invariance of the UPPS-P Impulsive Behavior Scale across the adult life span. Assessment. doi: 10.1177/1073191119832660
  8. Um, M., Whitt, Z.T., Revilla, R., Hunton, T., & Cyders, M.A. (2019). Shared neural correlates underlying addictive disorders and negative urgency. Brain Sciences, 9, 36-53.
  9. Um, M., Hershberger, A.R., & Cyders, M.A. (2019). The relationship among depressive symptoms, urgency, and problematic alcohol and cannabis use in community adults. Addictive Behaviors, 88, 36 – 42.​
  10. Argyriou, E., Um, M., & Cyders, M.A. (2018). Age and impulsive decision making in drug addiction: A review of past research and future directions. Invited manuscript at Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior, 164, 106 – 117. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2017.07.013
  11. Ramchandani, V.A., Stangl, B.L., Blaine, S.K., Plawecki, M.H., Schwandt, M.L., Kwako, L.E., Sinha, R., Cyders, M.A., O'Connor, S., & Zakhari, S. (2018). Stress vulnerability and alcohol use and consequences: From human laboratory studies to clinical outcomes. Alcohol, 72, 75 - 88.
  12. Um, M., Hershberger, A.R., Whitt, Z.T., Cyders, M.A. (2018). Recommendations for applying a multidimensional model of impulsive personality to diagnosis and treatment. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation, 5, 6 – 15.
  13. ​​Hershberger, A.R., Sanders, J.M., Chick, C., Jessup, M., Hanlin, H., & Cyders, M.A. (2018). Predicting running away in girls that are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Child abuse and neglect, 79, 269 – 278.
  14. Hawkins, M.A.W., Vrany, E.A., Cyders, M.A., Wells, T.T., & Stewart, J.C. (2018). Association between depressive symptom clusters and food attentional bias. Eating Behaviors, 31, 24-27.
  15. Dir, A.L., Riley, E., Smith, G.T., & Cyders, M.A. (2018). Problematic alcohol use and sexting as risk factors for sexual assault among college women. Journal of American College Health, 1- 8doi: 10.1080/07448481.2018.1432622
  16. VanderVeen, J. D., Schultz, N. J., & Cyders, M.A. (2018). Tennis Performance and Urgency: A Two-Part Pilot Study. Journal of Contemporary Athletics, 12, 49 - 59.
  17. Sanders, J., Hershberger, A.R., Kolp, H.M., Um, M., Aalsma, M., & Cyders, M.A. (2017). PTSD symptoms mediate the relationship between sexual abuse and substance use risk in juvenile justice involved youth. Child Maltreatment, 23, 226-233. 
  18. Kolp, H.M., Hershberger, A.R., Sanders, J.N., Um, M., Aalsma, M., & Cyders, M.A. (2017). Conduct disorder and illicit drug use in juvenile justice involved youth: The reciprocal relationship between positive illicit drug use attitudes and illicit drug use. Substance Use and Misuse, 1-8. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2017.1402058           
  19. Hershberger, A.R., Um, M., & Cyders, M.A. (2017). The relationship between the UPPS-P impulsive personality traits and substance use psychotherapy outcomes: A meta-analysis. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 178, 408 - 416. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.05.032
  20. Hershberger, A. R., Connors, M. Um, M., & Cyders, M. A. (2017). The theory of planned behavior and e-cig use: Sensation seeking, e-cig attitudes, and e-cig use. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 1 - 11. doi: 10.1007/s114
  21. Hershberger, A.R., & Cyders, M.A. (2017). "Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful: A preliminary conceptual model for co-occurring e-cig and alcohol use. Current Addiction Reports, 4,200 - 208doi:10.1007/s40429-017-0148-9
  22. Hershberger, A. R., Karyadi, K. A., VanderVeen, J. D., & Cyders, M. A. (2017). Beliefs about the direct comparisons of e-cigarettes and cigarettes. Substance Use and Misuse, 52, 1-10. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2016.1268628
  23. Karyadi, K.A., & Cyders, M.A. (2017). Preliminary support for the role of alcohol cues in food cravings and attentional biases. Journal of Health Psychology, 1359105316685898.
  24. Cyders, M. A., Coskunpinar, A., VanderVeen, J. D. (2016). Urgency – a common transdiagnostic endophenotype for maladaptive risk-taking. Chapter in V. Zeigler-Hill & D. Marcus (Eds.), The Dark Side of Personality. American Psychological Association.
  25. VanderVeen, J. D., Hershberger, A. R., & Cyders, M. A. (2016). UPPS-P model impulsivity and marijuana use behaviors in adolescents: A Meta-analytic review. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 168, 181-190. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.09.016
  26. VanderVeen, J. D., Plawecki, M. H., Millward, J. B., Hays, J., Kareken, D. A., O'Connor, S., & Cyders, M. A. (2016). Negative urgency, mood induction, and alcohol seeking behaviors. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 165,151-158. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.05.026. PMCID: PMC5045899
  27. Hershberger, A. R., Karyadi, K. A., & Cyders, M. A. (2016). Prohibition of e-cigarettes where alcohol is consumed is related to lower alcohol consumption. Journal of Public Health Policy.doi:10.1057/s41271-016-0033-0
  28. Hershberger, A. R., VanderVeen, J. D., Karyadi, K. A., & Cyders, M. A. (2016). Transitioning from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes increases alcohol consumption. Substance use and Misuse. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2016.1197940
  29. Fossati, A., Somma, A., Karyadi, K. A., Cyders, M. A., & Borroni, S. (2016). Reliability and validity of the Italian translation of the UPPS-P Impulsive Behavior Scale in a sample of consecutively admitted psychotherapy patients. Personality and Individual Differences, 91,1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2015.11.020
  30. Cyders, M. A., VanderVeen, J. D., Plawecki, M., Millward, J. B., Hays, J., Kareken, D. A., & O'Connor, S. (2016). Gender specific effects of mood on alcohol seeking behaviors. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 40, 393-400doi: 10.1111/acer.12955. PMC Journal: PMCID in progress.
  31. Cyders, M. A., Dzemidzic, M., Eiler, W. J., & Kareken, K. A. (2016). An fMRI study of responses to sexual stimuli as a function of gender and sensation seeking: A preliminary analysis. Journal of Sex Research. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2015.1112340. PMCID: PMC4911536
  32. Smith, G. T., & Cyders, M. A. (2016). Integrating affect and impulsivity: The role of positive and negative urgency in substance use risk. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 163, S3-S12. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.08.038
  33. Hershberger, A. R., Karyadi, K. A., VanderVeen, J. D., & Cyders, M. A. (2016). Combined expectancies of co-occurring e-cigarette and alcohol use and problematic alcohol consumption across smoking status. Addictive Behaviors, 51, 13-21.


Awards and Honors


IUPUI Oustanding Graduate Mentor Award

  • Awarded to one tenured faculty member at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Tenured Research Excellence Award

  • Awarded to one tenured faculty member in the School of Science
  • Purdue School of Science, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Pretenure Research Excellence Award

  • Awarded to one pretenure faculty member in the School of Science 
  • Purdue School of Science, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Nietzel Outstanding Graduate Award

  • Awarded to one graduate from the doctoral program yearly 
  • University of Kentucky, Department of Psychology

Predoctoral Research Award

  • Awarded to one student yearly for outstanding predoctoral research publication
  • University of Kentucky, Department of Psychology

Honorable Mention, Hager Research Award

  • Spring Academic Conference, Kentucky Psychological Association

Excellent Clinical Performance Award

  • Awarded to students with excellent service to the Harris Psychological Services Center
  • University of Kentucky, Department of Psychology

Current Grants  

Active 2018 - 2023

Indiana University Grand Challenge Project

  • Characterizing the Course of Long-Term Opioid Use Disorder Recovery and the Impact of Medication Assisted Treatment on Opioid Use Disorder Recovery
  • PI: Cyders
Active 2019 - 2021

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award

  • F31AA026767
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  • The role of positive urgency in alcohol-related risk-taking: a behavioral and neuroscientific investigation
  • PI: Um. Primary Mentor: Cyders
Active 2018 - 2023

Research Project Grant

  • R01AA027236
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  • Sex Differences in the Response to Abstinence from Alcohol
  • PI's: Plawecki and Cyders
Active 2017 - 2022

Indiana Alcohol Research Center Grant

  • P60 AA007611
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  • PI: Kareken. PI's on Research Component 5: Human alcohol seeking despite aversion: Plawecki and Cyders
Active 2017 - 2020

Indiana University Grand Challenge Project

  • Brief DBT skills program to reduce adolescent drug use in a school-based setting
  • PIs: Zapolski, Cyders, Salyers, Wu, and Aalsma
Active 2013 - 2022

iPREP: IUPUI Graduate Preparation for the Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences

  • R25 GM109432
  • PI: Burr. Mentor and Liaison for Clinical Psychology area: Cyders
Active 2013 - 2020

IUPUI Alcohol Training Grant 

  • 5T32AA007462
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism 
  • PI: Czachowski. Preceptor: Cyders