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Although executive and other cognitive deficits have been found in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD), whether these have brain functional correlates has been little studied. This study aimed to examine patterns of task-related activation and de-activation during the performance of a working memory task in patients with the disorder.
Sixty-seven DSM-IV BPD patients and 67 healthy controls underwent fMRI during the performance of the n-back task. Linear models were used to obtain maps of within-group activations and areas of differential activation between the groups.
On corrected whole-brain analysis, there were no activation differences between the BPD patients and the healthy controls during the main 2-back v. baseline contrast, but reduced activation was seen in the precentral cortex bilaterally and the left inferior parietal cortex in the 2-back v. 1-back contrast. The patients showed failure of de-activation affecting the medial frontal cortex and the precuneus, plus in other areas. The changes did not appear to be attributable to previous history of depression, which was present in nearly half the sample.
In this study, there was some, though limited, evidence for lateral frontal hypoactivation in BPD during the performance of an executive task. BPD also appears to be associated with failure of de-activation in key regions of the default mode network.