Altered functional connectivity during evaluation of self-relevance in women with borderline personality disorder

Linda Orth, Jana Zweerings, Camellia N Ibrahim, Irene Neuner, Pegah Sarkheil
NeuroImage: Clinical 2020 June 25, 27: 102324
Self-relevant functional abnormalities and identity disorders constitute the core psychopathological components in borderline personality disorder (BPD). Evidence suggests that appraising the relevance of environmental information to the self may be altered in BPD. However, only a few studies have examined self-relevance (SR) in BPD, and the neural correlates of SR processing has not yet been investigated in this patient group. The current study sought to evaluate brain activation differences between female patients with BPD and healthy controls during SR processing. A task-based fMRI paradigm was applied to evaluate SR processing in 23 female patients with BPD and 23 matched healthy controls. Participants were presented with a set of short sentences and were instructed to rate the stimuli. The differences in fMRI signals between SR rating (task of interest) and valence rating (control task) were examined. During SR rating, participants showed elevated activations of the cortical midline structures (CMS), known to be involved in the processing of self-related stimuli. Furthermore, we observed an elevated activation of the supplementary motor area (SMA) and the regions belonging to the mirror neuron system (MNS). Using whole-brain, seed-based connectivity analysis on the task-based fMRI data, we studied connectivity of networks anchored to the main CMS regions. We found a discrepancy in the connectivity pattern between patients and controls regarding connectivity of the CMS regions with the basal ganglia-thalamus complex. These observations have two main implications: First, they confirm the involvement of the CMS in SR evaluations of our stimuli and add evidence about the involvement of an extended network including the MNS and the SMA in this task. Second, the functional connectivity profile observed in BPD provides evidence for an altered functional interplay between the CMS and the brain regions involved in salience detection and reward evaluation, including the basal ganglia and the thalamus.

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