The Spectrum of Borderline Personality Disorder: A Neurophysiological View

  • Michael H. StoneEmail author
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 21)


Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) has been defined as a personality disorder in all editions of DSM since 1980; namely, DSM III through V. The criteria are a mixture of symptoms and traits; the etiology, a heterogeneous array of genetic, constitutional, and environmental factors. Until recently the diagnosis relied on clinical descriptions. In the last two decades, neurophysiological data, including MRI and fMRI, have established correlates in various brain regions, particularly those involving the frontal lobes and various limbic structures, that show promise of providing a more substantial basis for diagnosis—relying primarily on (internal) brain changes, rather than on (external) clinical observation. Some of the changes in BPD consist of decreased volume in the orbitofrontal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices and smaller volume in both the amygdala and hippocampus, though with heightened reactivity in the amygdala. Similar abnormalities have been noted in bipolar disorders (BDs) and in ADHD, both of which often accompany BPD and share certain clinical features. Persons with strong genetic predisposition to BDs can develop BPD even in the absence of adverse environmental factors; those with extreme adverse environmental factors (chiefly, early sexual molestation) can develop BPD in the absence of bipolar vulnerability. In some BPD patients, both sets of factors are present. As ideal treatment depends on careful analysis of these factors, neurophysiological testing may permit both more rational, brain-based diagnostic decisions and more appropriate therapeutic strategies.


Borderline personality disorder Bipolar disorder Attention-deficit disorder Neurophysiology Frontolimbic circuitry MRI 


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Columbia College of Physicians and SurgeonsNew YorkUSA

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