Amygdala Functional Connectivity in Young Women with Borderline Personality Disorder

Kathryn R. Cullen, Nathalie Vizueta, Kathleen M. Thomas, Georges J. Han, Kelvin O. Lim, Jazmin Camchong, Bryon A. Mueller, Christopher H. Bell, Monika D. Heller, S. Charles Schulz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a complex psychiatric disorder that involves the core feature of affect dysregulation. Prior neuroimaging studies have indicated that BPD patients have (1) excessive amygdala activation to negative emotion and (2) diminished frontal regulation. This study examined amygdala functional connectivity in 12 women with BPD and 12 matched healthy comparison volunteers. We explored how connectivity patterns would change in the context of processing neutral, overt fear, or masked fear face expressions. Each participant underwent three 5-min fMRI scans in which they primarily viewed: (1) neutral, (2) overt fear, and (3) masked fear faces. In comparison to their healthy counterparts, young women with BPD showed (1) lower connectivity between bilateral amygdala and mid-cingulate cortex during the neutral scan; (2) higher connectivity between bilateral amygdala and rostral anterior cingulate cortex during the overt fear scan; and (3) higher right amygdala connectivity with bilateral thalamus and right caudate during the masked fear scan. Exploratory analyses revealed interesting correlations between amygdala connectivity in these conditions with multiple clinical measures. Results from the neutral scan add to the few prior connectivity studies in BPD that have been suggestive of lower fronto-limbic connectivity in BPD. However, the connectivity findings during fear processing are novel, and map onto basic research models for amygdala connectivity, that i.s., connections to frontal areas for overt fear processing versus connections to thalamus for automatic fear processing. Further, results suggest that BPD subjects tap into both pathways more strongly than healthy comparisons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-71
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Connectivity
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011


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