Background: Intense and rapidly changing mood states are a major feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD); however, there have only been a few studies investigating affective processing in BPD, and in particular no neurofunctional correlates of abnormal emotional processing have been identified so far.
Methods: Six female BPD patients without additional major psychiatric disorder and six age-matched female control subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure regional cerebral hemodynamic changes following brain activity when viewing 12 standardized emotionally aversive slides compared to 12 neutral slides, which were presented in random order.
Results: Our main finding was that BPD subjects but not control subjects were characterized by an elevated blood oxygenation level dependent fMRI signal in the amygdala on both sides. In addition, activation of the medial and inferolateral prefrontal cortex was seen in BPD patients. Both groups showed activation in the temporo-occipital cortex including the fusiform gyrus in BPD subjects but not in control subjects.
Conclusions: Enhanced amygdala activation in BPD is suggested to reflect the intense and slowly subsiding emotions commonly observed in response to even low-level stressors. Borderline subjects' perceptual cortex may be modulated through the amygdala leading to increased attention to emotionally relevant environmental stimuli.