Self other disturbance in borderline personality disorder: Neural, self-report, and performance-based evidence

Joseph E. Beeney, Michael N. Hallquist, William D. Ellison, Kenneth N. Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) display an impoverished sense of self and representations of self and others that shift between positive and negative poles. However, little research has investigated the nature of representational disturbance in BPD. The present study takes a multimodal approach. A card sort task was used to investigate complexity, integration, and valence of selfrepresentation in BPD. Impairment in maintenance of self and other representations was assessed using a personality representational maintenance task. Finally, functional MRI (fMRI) was used to assess whether individuals with BPD show neural abnormalities related specifically to the self and what brain areas may be related to poor representational maintenance. Individuals with BPD sorted self-aspects suggesting more complexity of self-representation, but also less integration and more negative valence overall. On the representational maintenance task, individuals with BPD showed less consistency in their representations of self and others over the 3-hr period, but only for abstract, personality-based representations. Performance on this measure mediated between-groups brain activation in several areas supporting social cognition. We found no evidence for social cognitive disturbance specific to the self. Additionally, the BPD group showed main effects, insensitive to condition, of hyperactivation in the medial prefrontal cortex, temporal parietal junction, several regions of the frontal pole, the precuneus and middle temporal gyrus, all areas crucial social cognition. In contrast, controls evidenced greater activation in visual, sensory, motor, and mirror neuron regions. These findings are discussed in relation to research regarding hypermentalization and the overlap between self-and other-disturbance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-39
Number of pages12
JournalPersonality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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