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J Psychiatr Res. 2006 Aug;40(5):428-37. Epub 2005 Oct 27.

Neural correlates of impulsive responding in borderline personality disorder: ERP evidence for reduced action monitoring.

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  • 1Nijmegen Institute for Cognition and Information, Radboud University, P.O. Box 9104, 6500 HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) are characterized by marked impulsive behaviour. The impulsive response style of patients with BPD may be associated with diminished action monitoring, which can be investigated by measuring the error-related negativity (ERN). The ERN is an ERP component generated in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) following erroneous responses. Behavioural and ERP measurements were obtained during performance on a speeded two-choice reaction task in a group of patients with BPD (N=12) and in a group of age-matched controls (N=12). The ERP results showed that ERN amplitudes were reduced for patients with BPD, as were the P300 amplitudes after late feedback. The behavioural results confirmed a more impulsive response style for the BPD group, reflected in larger RT differences between correct and incorrect responses and in an increase in erroneous responses to the easy congruent stimuli. Additionally, analyses on post-error congruency effects demonstrated that controls adjusted their behaviour following errors, but patients with BPD did not. The attenuated ERNs indicate reduced action monitoring in patients with BPD. This suggests that the ACC, or the action-monitoring network it is part of, is not functioning optimally. Due to this reduced action monitoring, patients with BPD do not learn from their errors as well as controls. Consequently, they do not adjust their behaviour when necessary and thus maintain their impulsive response style.

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