Affect regulation in borderline personality disorder: experimental findings from psychophysiology and functional neuroimaging


Sabine C. Herpertz MD, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Aachen Technical University (RWTH), Pauwelsstr. 30, D-52074 Aachen, Germany. Tel.: (+) 49 241 8089637; Fax: (+) 49 241 8888401; E-mail:


Background:  Intense and rapidly changing mood states are a major feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD), which is thought to arise from affective vulnerability.

Objective: There have been only a few studies investigating affective processing in BPD, and particularly neither psychophysiological nor neurofunctional correlates of abnormal emotional processing have been identified so far.

Methods:  Studies are reported using psychophysiological or functional neuroimaging methodology.

Results:  The psychophysiological study did not indicate a general emotional hyperresponsiveness in BPD. Low autonomic arousal seemed to reflect dissociative states in borderline subjects experiencing intense emotions. In the functional magnetic resonance imaging study enhanced amygdala activation was found in BPD, and it is suggested to reflect the intense and slowly subsiding emotions commonly observed in response to even low-level stressors.

Conclusions:  Implications for psychotherapy are discussed.