Amygdala structure and aggressiveness in borderline personality disorder

  • Falk Mancke
  • Sabine C. Herpertz
  • Dusan Hirjak
  • Rebekka Knies
  • Katja Bertsch
Original Paper


Aggressiveness is considered an important clinical feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and has been associated with alterations of the amygdala. However, studies that analyzed the exact location of amygdala alterations associated with aggressiveness in BPD or that systematically compared female and male BPD patients are missing. In the current study, we therefore investigated a sex-mixed sample of BPD patients and healthy volunteers and applied an automated segmentation method that allows the study of both, alterations of amygdala volume and localized amygdala shape. Volumetric results revealed no difference in amygdala volume between BPD patients and healthy volunteers, but a trend for a positive association between volume of the right amygdala and aggressiveness in male BPD patients. Analyses of amygdala shape showed a trend for a group by sex interaction effect in the left laterobasal amygdala, without a difference in subgroup analyses. Finally, regions of the left superficial and laterobasal amygdala of male BPD patients were positively associated with aggressiveness. In sum, our results emphasize the need to consider sex-specific effects and demonstrate a link between male BPD patients’ aggressiveness and amygdala regions that are particularly related to social information processing and associative emotional learning.


Volume Shape Surface Superficial amygdala Cortical amygdala Laterobasal amygdala 



The study was supported by Grants from the German Research Foundation (DFG) awarded to S. C. Herpertz within the KFO 256 (He 2660/12-1; He 2660/7-2).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest


Supplementary material

406_2016_747_MOESM1_ESM.pptx (73 kb)
Partial regression plots depicting the association between whole right amygdala volume and aggressiveness in BPD patients and healthy volunteers (HV). Values of both axes are residual scores after regressing each variable of interest onto the control variables and were z-transformed before analysis. (PPTX 72 kb)
406_2016_747_MOESM2_ESM.pptx (191 kb)
Region of the left laterobasal amygdala from an anterior view that showed a trend for a group by sex interaction. Blue depicts the amygdala mask. Orange depicts voxels that were significant at the < .10 level, fwe. (PPTX 191 kb)
406_2016_747_MOESM3_ESM.pptx (64 kb)
Partial regression plots depicting the associations between regions (see Table S2 for exact localization) of the left amygdala and aggressiveness in female BPD patients and healthy volunteers. Values of the x-axes derive from the vertex analysis of the voxel with the lowest p -value. These values represent the signed, perpendicular distance from the average amygdala shape of the group under study. Values of all axes are residual scores after regressing each variable of interest onto the control variables and were z-transformed before analysis. (PPTX 63 kb)
406_2016_747_MOESM4_ESM.docx (21 kb)
Differences in amygdala shape between BPD patients and healthy volunteers (HV). All p -values are family-wise error - corrected. -values < .05 are in bold. Location of cluster refers to the amygdala subregion with the highest probability according to Juelich Histological Atlas. (DOCX 21 kb)
406_2016_747_MOESM5_ESM.docx (92 kb)
Differences in amygdala shape between BPD patients and healthy volunteers (HV). All -values are family-wise error - corrected. -values < .05 are in bold. Location of cluster refers to the amygdala subregion with the highest probability according to Juelich Histological Atlas. (DOCX 92 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of General Psychiatry, Center for Psychosocial MedicineUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Central Institute of Mental HealthMedical Faculty Mannheim/Heidelberg UniversityMannheimGermany
  3. 3.Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, Central Institute of Mental HealthMedical Faculty Mannheim/Heidelberg UniversityMannheimGermany

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