Increased prefrontal cortical thickness is associated with enhanced abilities to regulate emotions in PTSD-free women with borderline personality disorder

PLoS One. 2013 Jun 5;8(6):e65584. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065584. Print 2013.


Previous studies suggest that amygdala, insula and prefrontal cortex (PFC) disintegrity play a crucial role in the failure to adequately regulate emotions in Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). However, prior results are confounded by the high rate of comorbidity with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which itself has been associated with changes in frontolimbic circuitry. We thus scrutinized the link between PFC, amygdala, insula, and the ability to regulate emotions, contrasting 17 women with BPD without comorbid PTSD to 27 non-clinical control women and in addition to those with BPD and PTSD (n = 14). BPD women without PTSD, but not those with comorbid PTSD, had increased cortical thickness in the dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC) in comparison to control women. Furthermore, cortical thickness in the DLPFC of BPD women without PTSD positively correlated with emotion regulation scores and furthermore was positively associated with amygdala volume, as well as cortical thickness of the insula. Our findings highlight the importance of disentangling the impact of BPD and PTSD on the brain and suggest possible compensatory mechanisms for the impaired emotion regulation in BPD women without PTSD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / pathology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / pathology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Organ Size
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / pathology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*

Grants and funding

This study was supported by a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research [BMBF, No.: 01GO0518 and No.: 01GW0783]. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.