Serotonin, personality and borderline personality disorder

Acta Neuropsychiatr. 2002 Apr;14(2):66-70. doi: 10.1034/j.1601-5215.2002.140203.x.


Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters implicated in normal personality. Many psychobiological models of personality include some dimensions related to serotonin. For instance, the harm avoidance dimension of the biosocial model developed by Cloninger is related to serotonergic activity. Higher scores on the harm avoidance dimension should theoretically reflect increased serotonergic activity. However, correlation studies related serotonin activity to harm avoidance dimension have not yielded consistent findings. These controversial results are probably related to the complexity of the neurotransmitter systems, and the different assessment techniques used in these studies. Finally, recent genetic studies have examined the association between personality dimensions and serotonergic receptor polymorphisms with mixed results. Serotonin is not only related to some dimensions of normal personality. Several psychopathological disorders are associated with serotonergic dysfunction. More particularly, borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be defined by many of the symptoms associated with serotonergic dysregulation, including affective lability, suicidal behaviours, impulsivity and loss of impulse control. Indeed, several reports have demonstrated the efficacy of selective serotonin re-uptake drugs in treating the depressive and impulsive symptoms of patients with BPD. Moreover, some challenge studies have reported a lower serotonergic activity in BPD. Because these challenges are not specific, we have assessed the serotonergic activity in BPD with the flesinoxan challenge. Preliminary results showed that the prolactine responses to flesinoxan were significantly lower in BPD patients compared to those observed in controls.