Neural correlates of episodic and semantic memory retrieval in borderline personality disorder: an fMRI study

Psychiatry Res. 2009 Feb 28;171(2):94-105. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2008.02.006. Epub 2009 Jan 26.


Verbal memory impairment in borderline personality disorder (BPD) is still a matter of debate. In this study we combine investigations of both, memory retrieval as well as underlying neural circuits in BPD. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to study regional brain activation in 18 right-handed female patients with BPD and 18 matched controls during the retrieval of an episodic memory retrieval (EMR) task (free recall of a word list) and a semantic memory retrieval (SMR) task (verbal fluency). Despite unaffected performance in EMR and SMR, patients with BPD showed task-specific increased activation compared with controls. During EMR, the increased activation encompassed the posterior cingulate cortex bilaterally, the left middle and superior temporal gyrus, the right inferior frontal gyrus, and the right angular gyrus. SMR was associated with increased activation of the posterior cingulate cortex, of the right fusiform gyrus, of the left anterior cingulate cortex, and of the left postcentral gyrus. Our findings suggest that BPD patients may need to engage larger brain areas to reach a level of performance in episodic and semantic retrieval tasks that is comparable to that of healthy controls.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Retention, Psychology / physiology
  • Semantics*
  • Verbal Learning / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen