Abnormalities in cortical gray matter density in borderline personality disorder

Eur Psychiatry. 2015 Feb;30(2):221-7. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2014.11.009. Epub 2015 Jan 2.


Background: Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a chronic condition with a strong impact on patients' affective, cognitive and social functioning. Neuroimaging techniques offer invaluable tools to understand the biological substrate of the disease. We aimed to investigate gray matter alterations over the whole cortex in a group of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) patients compared to healthy controls (HC).

Methods: Magnetic resonance-based cortical pattern matching was used to assess cortical gray matter density (GMD) in 26 BPD patients and in their age- and sex-matched HC (age: 38 ± 11; females: 16, 61%).

Results: BPD patients showed widespread lower cortical GMD compared to HC (4% difference) with peaks of lower density located in the dorsal frontal cortex, in the orbitofrontal cortex, the anterior and posterior cingulate, the right parietal lobe, the temporal lobe (medial temporal cortex and fusiform gyrus) and in the visual cortex (P<0.005). Our BPD subjects displayed a symmetric distribution of anomalies in the dorsal aspect of the cortical mantle, but a wider involvement of the left hemisphere in the mesial aspect in terms of lower density. A few restricted regions of higher density were detected in the right hemisphere. All regions remained significant after correction for multiple comparisons via permutation testing.

Conclusions: BPD patients feature specific morphology of the cerebral structures involved in cognitive and emotional processing and social cognition/mentalization, consistent with clinical and functional data.

Keywords: Borderline personality disorder; MRI; Neuroimaging.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / pathology*
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology
  • Gray Matter / pathology*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology*