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1.  Gene Expression Profiles in Relation to Tension and Dissociation in Borderline Personality Disorder 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70787.
The biological underpinnings of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and its psychopathology including states of aversive tension and dissociation is poorly understood. Our goal was to examine transcriptional changes associated with states of tension or dissociation within individual patients in a pilot study. Dissociation is not only a critical symptom of BPD but has also been associated with higher risk for self-mutilation and depression. We conducted a whole blood gene expression profile analysis using quantitative PCR in 31 female inpatients with BPD. For each individual, two samples were drawn during a state of high tension and dissociation, while two samples were drawn at non-tension states. There was no association between gene expression and tension states. However, we could show that Interleukin-6 was positively correlated to dissociation scores, whereas Guanine nucleotide-binding protein G(s) subunit alpha isoforms, Mitogen-activated protein kinase 3 and 8, Guanine nucleotide-binding protein G(i) subunit alpha-2, Beta-arrestin-1 and 2, and Cyclic AMP-responsive element-binding protein were negatively correlated to dissociation. Our data point to a potential association of dissociation levels with the expression of genes involved in immune system regulation as well as cellular signalling/second-messenger systems. Major limitations of the study are the the possibly heterogeneous cell proportions in whole blood and the heterogeneous medication.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070787
PMCID: PMC3741306  PMID: 23951008
2.  Voxel-Based Morphometry in Women with Borderline Personality Disorder with and without Comorbid Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65824.
Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) showed reduced volume of amygdala and hippocampus, but similar findings are evident in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Applying voxel-based morphometry (VBM) in a larger cohort of patients with BPD, we sought to extend earlier findings of volume abnormalities in limbic regions and to evaluate the influence of co-occurring PTSD in BPD patients. We used voxel-based morphometry to study gray matter volume (GMV) in 60 healthy controls (HC) and 60 patients with BPD. Subgroup analyses on 53 patients concerning the role of co-occurring PTSD were conducted. Additionally, regression analyses were calculated to assess the relation between borderline symptom severity as well as dissociative experiences and GMV. Differences in local GMV between patients with BPD and HC were observed in the amygdale and hippocampus as well as in the fusiform and cingulate gyrus. Co-occurring PTSD was accompanied by increased GMV in the superior temporal gyrus and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Independent of co-occurring PTSD, severity of BPD symptoms predicted smaller GMV in the amygdala and dorsal ACC. Dissociation was positively related to GMV in the middle temporal gyrus. We could replicate earlier findings of diminished limbic GMV in patients with BPD and additionally show that patients with co-morbid PTSD feature increased GMV in prefrontal regions associated with cognitive control.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065824
PMCID: PMC3680473  PMID: 23776553
3.  Functional Connectivity of Pain-Mediated Affect Regulation in Borderline Personality Disorder 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33293.
Affective instability and self-injurious behavior are important features of Borderline Personality Disorder. Whereas affective instability may be caused by a pattern of limbic hyperreactivity paired with dysfunctional prefrontal regulation mechanisms, painful stimulation was found to reduce affective arousal at the neural level, possibly underlying the soothing effect of pain in BPD.
We used psychophysiological interactions to analyze functional connectivity of (para-) limbic brain structures (i.e. amygdala, insula, anterior cingulate cortex) in Borderline Personality Disorder in response to painful stimulation. Therefore, we re-analyzed a dataset from 20 patients with Borderline Personality Disorder and 23 healthy controls who took part in an fMRI-task inducing negative (versus neutral) affect and subsequently applying heat pain (versus warmth perception).
Results suggest an enhanced negative coupling between limbic as well as paralimbic regions and prefrontal regions, specifically with the medial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, when patients experienced pain in addition to emotional arousing pictures. When neutral pictures were combined with painful heat sensation, we found positive connectivity in Borderline Personality Disorder between (para-)limbic brain areas and parts of the basal ganglia (lentiform nucleus, putamen), as well areas involved in self-referential processing (precuneus and posterior cingulate).
We found further evidence for alterations in the emotion regulation process in Borderline Personality Disorder, in the way that pain improves the inhibition of limbic activity by prefrontal areas. This study provides new insights in pain processing in BPD, including enhanced coupling of limbic structures and basal ganglia.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033293
PMCID: PMC3299768  PMID: 22428013
4.  COMT val158met Polymorphism and Neural Pain Processing 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e23658.
A functional polymorphism (val158met) of the gene coding for Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COM) has been demonstrated to be related to processing of emotional stimuli. Also, this polymorphism has been found to be associated with pain regulation in healthy subjects. Therefore, we investigated a possible influence of this polymorphism on pain processing in healthy persons as well as in subjects with markedly reduced pain sensitivity in the context of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Fifty females (25 patients with BPD and 25 healthy control participants) were included in this study. Genotype had a significant – though moderate - effect on pain sensitivity, but only in healthies. The number of val alleles was correlated with the BOLD response in several pain-processing brain regions, including dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, posterior parietal cortex, lateral globus pallidus, anterior and posterior insula. Within the subgroup of healthy participants, the number of val alleles was positively correlated with the BOLD response in posterior parietal, posterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. BPD patients revealed a positive correlation between the number of val alleles and BOLD signal in anterior and posterior insula. Thus, our data show that the val158met polymorphism in the COMT gene contributes significantly to inter-individual differences in neural pain processing: in healthy people, this polymorphism was more related to cognitive aspects of pain processing, whereas BPD patients with reduced pain sensitivity showed an association with activity in brain regions related to affective pain processing.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023658
PMCID: PMC3256133  PMID: 22247753
5.  A Positron Tomographic Emission Study of Olfactory Induced Emotional Recall in Veterans with and without Combat-related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 
Psychopharmacology bulletin  2007;40(1):8-30.
OBJECTIVE
Memory for odors is often associated with highly emotional experiences, and odors have long been noted by clinicians to be precipitants of trauma symptoms in PTSD. Primitive brain systems involved in fear responsivity and survival also mediate smell, including the olfactory cortex and amygdala. The purpose of this study was to measure neural correlates of olfaction in PTSD.
METHODS
We exposed male combat veterans with PTSD (N=8) and without PTSD (N=8) to a set of smells, including diesel (related to traumatic memories of combat), and three other types of smells: odorless air, vanilla/coconut and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) (resp. a neutral, positive, and negative hedonic non-traumatic smell) in conjunction with PET imaging of cerebral blood flow and assessment of psychophysiological and behavioral symptoms. All subjects also underwent a baseline of olfactory acuity.
RESULTS
PTSD patients rated diesel as unpleasant and distressing, resulting in increased PTSD symptoms and anxiety in PTSD versus combat controls. Exposure to diesel resulted in an increase in regional blood flow (rCBF) in amygdala, insula, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and decreased rCBF in lateral prefrontal cortex (lPFC) in PTSD in comparison to combat controls. Combat controls showed less rCBF changes on any smell, and did not show amygdala activation upon diesel exposure.
CONCLUSIONS
These data support the hypothesis that in PTSD trauma-related smells can serve as strong emotional reminders. The findings indicate the involvement of a neural circuitry that shares olfactory elements and memory processing regions when exposed to trauma-related stimuli.
PMCID: PMC3236699  PMID: 17285093
PTSD; brain imaging techniques; olfaction; memory; amygdala
6.  Hippocampal and Amygdalar Volumes in Dissociative Identity Disorder 
The American journal of psychiatry  2006;163(4):630-636.
Objective
Smaller hippocampal volume has been reported in several stress-related psychiatric disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline personality disorder with early abuse, and depression with early abuse. Patients with borderline personality disorder and early abuse have also been found to have smaller amygdalar volume. The authors examined hippocampal and amygdalar volumes in patients with dissociative identity disorder, a disorder that has been associated with a history of severe childhood trauma.
Method
The authors used magnetic resonance imaging to measure the volumes of the hippocampus and amygdala in 15 female patients with dissociative identity disorder and 23 female subjects without dissociative identity disorder or any other psychiatric disorder. The volumetric measurements for the two groups were compared.
Results
Hippocampal volume was 19.2% smaller and amygdalar volume was 31.6% smaller in the patients with dissociative identity disorder, compared to the healthy subjects. The ratio of hippocampal volume to amygdalar volume was significantly different between groups.
Conclusions
The findings are consistent with the presence of smaller hippocampal and amygdalar volumes in patients with dissociative identity disorder, compared with healthy subjects.
doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.163.4.630
PMCID: PMC3233754  PMID: 16585437
7.  Positron emission tomographic imaging of neural correlates of a fear acquisition and extinction paradigm in women with childhood sexual-abuse-related post-traumatic stress disorder 
Psychological medicine  2005;35(6):791-806.
Background
In the conditioned fear paradigm, repeated pairing of an aversive unconditioned stimulus (US) (e.g. electric shock) with a neutral conditioned stimulus (CS) (e.g. bright light) results in a conditioned fear response to the light alone. Animal studies have shown that the amygdala plays a critical role in acquisition of conditioned fear responses, while the medial prefrontal cortex (including anterior cingulate), through inhibition of amygdala responsiveness, has been hypothesized to play a role in extinction of fear responses. No studies have examined neural correlates of fear conditioning and extinction in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Method
Women with early childhood sexual-abuse-related PTSD (n=8) and women without abuse or PTSD (n=11) underwent measurement of psychophysiological (skin conductance) responding as well as positron emission tomographic (PET) measurement of cerebral blood flow during habituation, acquisition and extinction conditions. During habituation subjects were repeatedly exposed to a blue square on a screen. During acquisition, exposure to the blue square (CS) was paired with an electric shock to the forearm (US). With extinction, subjects were again exposed to the blue squares without shock. On a different day subjects went through the same procedure with electric shocks administered randomly in the absence of the blue square.
Results
Skin conductance responding to the CS was consistent with the development of conditioned responses with this paradigm. PTSD patients had increased left amygdala activation with fear acquisition, and decreased anterior cingulate function during extinction, relative to controls.
Conclusions
These findings implicate amygdala and anterior cingulate in the acquisition and extinction of fear responses, respectively, in PTSD.
PMCID: PMC3233760  PMID: 15997600
8.  Neuroimaging in borderline personality disorder 
Journal of psychiatric research  2005;40(5):419-427.
Neuroimaging has become one of the most important methods in the investigation of the neurobiological underpinnings of borderline personality disorder. Structural and functional imaging studies have revealed dysfunction in different brain regions which seem to contribute to borderline symptomatology. This review presents relevant studies using different methodologies: volumetry of limbic and prefrontal regions, investigations of brain metabolism under resting conditions, studies of serotonergic neurotransmission, and challenge studies using emotional, stressful, and sensory stimuli. Dysfunction in a frontolimbic network is suggested to mediate much, if not all of the borderline symptomatology.
doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2005.08.011
PMCID: PMC3233768  PMID: 16239012
Neuroimaging; Borderline personality disorder; Prefrontal cortex; Amygdala
9.  Alterations in Stress Reactivity After Long-Term Treatment with Paroxetine in Women with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is typically accompanied by both acute and chronic alterations in the stress response. These alterations have mostly been described in individuals under baseline conditions, but studies have also used a challenge model to assess the role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in the stress response. The purpose of this article was to assess the effect of long-term treatment with the selective reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), paroxetine, on stress reactivity in patients with PTSD. We assessed diurnal salivary cortisol and urinary cortisol as well as cortisol, heart rate, and behavioral responses to a standardized cognitive stress challenge, in 13 female patients with chronic PTSD before and after 12 months of paroxetine treatment. Treatment resulted in a significant decrease in PTSD symptoms. Twenty-four-hour urinary cortisol was lower compared to base line after successful treatment. Treatment resulted in a decrease of salivary cortisol levels on all time points on a diurnal curve. Despite similar stress perception, cortisol response to the cognitive stress challenge resulted in a 26.5% relative decrease in stress-induced salivary cortisol with treatment. These results suggest that successful treatment with SSRI in chronic PTSD is associated with a trend for a decrease in baseline diurnal cortisol and with reduced cortisol reactivity to stress.
doi:10.1196/annals.1364.014
PMCID: PMC3230329  PMID: 16891570
cortisol; PTSD; stress; paroxetine; SSRI; challenge; HPA axis
10.  Emotion Modulation in PTSD: Clinical and Neurobiological Evidence for a Dissociative Subtype 
The American journal of psychiatry  2010;167(6):640-647.
In this article, the authors present evidence regarding a dissociative subtype of PTSD, with clinical and neurobiological features that can be distinguished from nondissociative PTSD. The dissociative subtype is characterized by overmodulation of affect, while the more common undermodulated type involves the predominance of reexperiencing and hyperarousal symptoms. This article focuses on the neural manifestations of the dissociative subtype in PTSD and compares it to those underlying the reexperiencing/hyperaroused subtype. A model that includes these two types of emotion dysregulation in PTSD is described. In this model, reexperiencing/hyperarousal reactivity is viewed as a form of emotion dysregulation that involves emotional undermodulation, mediated by failure of prefrontal inhibition of limbic regions. In contrast, the dissociative subtype of PTSD is described as a form of emotion dysregulation that involves emotional overmodulation mediated by midline prefrontal inhibition of the same limbic regions. Both types of modulation are involved in a dynamic interplay and lead to alternating symptom profiles in PTSD. These findings have important implications for treatment of PTSD, including the need to assess patients with PTSD for dissociative symptoms and to incorporate the treatment of dissociative symptoms into stage-oriented trauma treatment.
doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.09081168
PMCID: PMC3226703  PMID: 20360318
11.  Structural and functional plasticity of the human brain in posttraumatic stress disorder 
Progress in brain research  2008;167:171-186.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with long-term changes in neurobiology. Brain areas involved in the stress response include the medial prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala. Neurohormonal systems that act on the brain areas to modulate PTSD symptoms and memory include glucocorticoids and norepinephrine. Dysfunction of these brain areas is responsible for the symptoms of PTSD. Brain imaging studies show that PTSD patients have increased amygdala reactivity during fear acquisition. Other studies show smaller hippocampal volume. A failure of medial prefrontal/anterior cingulate activation with re-experiencing of the trauma is hypothesized to represent a neural correlate of the failure of extinction seen in PTSD. The brain has the capacity for plasticity in the aftermath of traumatic stress. Antidepressant treatments and changes in environment can reverse the effects of stress on hippocampal neurogenesis, and humans with PTSD showed increased hippocampal volume with both paroxetine and phenytoin.
doi:10.1016/S0079-6123(07)67012-5
PMCID: PMC3226705  PMID: 18037014
PET; depression; cortisol; glucocorticoids; stress; PTSD
12.  Pain sensitivity and neural processing during dissociative states in patients with borderline personality disorder with and without comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder: a pilot study 
Background
Stress-induced dissociative states involving analgesia are a common feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Our aim was to investigate the psychologic, somatosensory (pain sensitivity) and neural correlates of dissociative states in patients with these disorders.
Methods
We included 15 women with BPD who were not taking medication; 10 of these women had comorbid PTSD. While undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging at 1.5 Tesla, participants were exposed to a script describing a personalized dissociation-inducing situation and a personalized script describing a neutral situation. We assessed dissociative psychopathology and pain sensitivity.
Results
Dissociative psychopathology scores were significantly higher and pain sensitivity was lower after the dissociation-inducing script was read compared with the neutral script. The blood oxygen level–dependent (BOLD) signal was significantly increased in the left inferior frontal gyrus (Brodmann area [BA] 9) during the presentation of the dissociation-inducing script. Regression analyses revealed positive correlations between BOLD signal and dissociative psychopathology in the left superior frontal gyrus (BA 6) and negative correlations in the right middle (BA 21) and inferior temporal gyrus (BA 20). In the subgroup of participants with comorbid PTSD, we also found increased activity in the left cingulate gyrus (BA 32) during script-driven imagery-induced dissociation, a positive correlation between dissociation scores and activity in the right and left insula (BA 13) and a negative correlation in the right parahippocampal gyrus (BA 35).
Limitations
The main limitation of this pilot study is the absence of a control group. Therefore, the results may also reflect the neural correlates of non–BPD/PTSD specific dissociative states or the neural correlates of emotionally stressful or “loaded” memories. Another limitation is the uncorrected statistical level of the functional magnetic resonance imaging results.
Conclusion
Our results showed that the script-driven imagery method is capable of inducing dissociative states in participants with BPD with and without comorbid PTSD. These states were characterized by reduced pain sensitivity and a frontolimbic activation pattern, which resembles the findings in participants with PTSD while in dissociative states.
doi:10.1503/jpn.090022
PMCID: PMC2861134  PMID: 20420768
13.  Hippocampus and amygdala volumes in patients with borderline personality disorder with or without posttraumatic stress disorder 
Background
Several studies have investigated volumetric brain changes in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD). Both groups exhibit volume reductions of the hippocampus and amygdala. Our aim was to investigate the influence of comorbid PTSD on hippocampus and amygdala volumes in patients with BPD.
Methods
We compared 2 groups of unmedicated female patients with BPD (10 with and 15 without comorbid PTSD) and 25 healthy female controls. We used T1- and T2-weighted magnetic resonance images for manual tracing and 3-dimensional reconstruction of the hippocampus and amygdala.
Results
Hippocampus volumes of patients with BPD and PTSD were smaller than those of healthy controls. However, there was no significant difference between patients with BPD but without PTSD and controls. Impulsiveness was positively correlated with hippocampus volumes in patients with BPD.
Limitations
Our study did not allow for disentangling the effects of PTSD and traumatization. Another limitation was the relatively small sample size.
Conclusion
Our findings highlight the importance of classifying subgroups of patients with BPD. Comorbid PTSD may be related to volumetric alterations in brain regions that are of central importance to our understanding of borderline psychopathology.
PMCID: PMC2702446  PMID: 19568480
14.  Emotional learning during dissociative states in borderline personality disorder 
Background
Neurobiological findings and clinical data suggest that dissociative experience inhibits conditioning processes, but experimental studies are lacking. The aim of our study was to determine whether high states of dissociative experience would specifically alter emotional learning, but not declarative knowledge.
Methods
We used an aversive differential delay conditioning procedure in 33 unmedicated patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and 35 healthy controls.
Results
Patients with BPD who had high state dissociative experiences (BPD D+) showed diminished acquisition of differential aversive delay conditioning with respect to emotional learning compared with those who did not experience dissociative symptoms (BPD D−) and healthy controls (skin conductance response; interaction dissociation × quadratic time × type, p = 0.009). Specifically, the control group and the BPD D− subgroup showed an increase in valence and arousal to the conditioned stimulus (CS+) during the conditioning procedure (all p < 0.012) and demonstrated differential skin conductance responses in the acquisition and extinction phases. In contrast, the BPD D+ subgroup showed no increase in valence and arousal to CS+ or differential response regarding skin conductance. We examined general psychopathology, trauma history, perceptual differences and posttraumatic stress disorder as confounding factors, but we found no evidence of bias.
Limitations
Subdividing the BPD group reduced power. In addition, because our sample included only women, the generalizability of our results is constrained. Furthermore, we performed no separate analysis of the influence of different aspects of dissociation on the learning process.
Conclusion
Emotional, amygdala-based learning processes seem to be inhibited during state dissociative experience. State dissociative experience may alter acquisition and extinction processes and should be closely monitored in exposure-based psychotherapy.
PMCID: PMC2674975  PMID: 19448852

Results 1-14 (14)