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Different BPD Symptoms Linked To Different Areas Of Brain Activation

We know that severe and protracted childhood trauma can damage the way in which various brain regions develop. Studies also show that there is a strong association between childhood trauma and the later development of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and we shouldn’t be surprised, therefore, that research has shown that borderline personality disorder(BPD) sufferers can also show abnormalities in certain brain regions.

In relation to this, a recent study has been carried out that shows that brain abnormalities are not consistent among all borderline personality disorder (BPD) sufferers but that there is an association between the main symptoms of the person with BPD and the particular areas of his/her brain which show abnormalities. In other words, individuals with BPD with different symptoms from one another may also have suffered developmental damage to different parts of their brains compared to one other. Again, this finding would be expected according to common sense, but let’s look at the findings of the study in a little more detail.


The results of the study, using fMRI scans, indeed did suggest that different BPD symptoms were liked to activation in different brain regions. Three specific findings were as follows:

It can be inferred from the study that those BPD sufferers suffering from:

  • high levels of cognitive disturbance (paranoia, identity disturbance, and dissociation) showed different brain activation in the left amygdala, left temporal lobe, and left hippocampus.
  • high levels of impulsiveness (excessive drinking, excessive shopping, and self-injury) showed increased connectivity between the right amygdala and left hippocampus.
  • high levels of disturbed relationships with others showed increased activation involving the right amygdala and right frontal lobe.



When psychoactive drug treatment of BPD is recommended, the findings of this study suggest that there should not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach but, instead, drug treatment should be bespoke according to the BPD sufferer’s particular symptoms and corresponding areas of the brain displaying abnormalities. However, it should also be borne in mind that the sample size used in this study was small so further research to confirm its findings will be necessary.