Impulsivity and prefrontal hypometabolism in borderline personality disorder

Psychiatry Res. 2003 Jul 30;123(3):153-63. doi: 10.1016/s0925-4927(03)00064-7.


Prefrontal hypoperfusion and decreased glucose uptake in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) are found in violent criminal offenders, murderers and aggressive psychiatric patients. These abnormalities may be independent of diagnosis and associated with impulsive-aggression as a personality trait. Impulsive-aggression is a clinical characteristic of borderline personality disorder (BPD) where it is associated with assaultive and suicidal behaviors. We conducted FDG-PET studies in 13 non-depressed, impulsive female subjects with BPD and 9 healthy controls to look for abnormalities in glucose metabolism in areas of the PFC associated with regulation of impulsive behavior. Statistical Parametric Mapping-99 (SPM99) was used to analyze the PET data with Hamilton depression scores as covariate. Significant reductions in FDG uptake in BPD subjects relative to healthy controls were found bilaterally in medial orbital frontal cortex, including Brodmann's areas 9, 10 and 11. There were no significant areas of increased uptake in BPD subjects compared to control subjects. Covarying for measures of impulsivity or impulsive-aggression rendered insignificant the differences between groups. Decreased glucose uptake in medial orbital frontal cortex may be associated with diminished regulation of impulsive behavior in BPD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / metabolism*
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / diagnosis
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Disorders / diagnosis
  • Personality Disorders / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Glucose