Borderline personality disorder and childhood trauma: Exploring the affected biological systems and mechanisms

Nadia Cattane, Roberta Rossi, Mariangela Lanfredi, Annamaria Cattaneo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: According to several studies, the onset of the Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) depends on the combination between genetic and environmental factors (GxE), in particular between biological vulnerabilities and the exposure to traumatic experiences during childhood. We have searched for studies reporting possible alterations in several biological processes and brain morphological features in relation to childhood trauma experiences and to BPD. We have also looked for epigenetic mechanisms as they could be mediators of the effects of childhood trauma in BPD vulnerability. Discussion: We prove the role of alterations in Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, in neurotrasmission, in the endogenous opioid system and in neuroplasticity in the childhood trauma-associated vulnerability to develop BPD; we also confirm the presence of morphological changes in several BPD brain areas and in particular in those involved in stress response. Summary: Not so many studies are available on epigenetic changes in BPD patients, although these mechanisms are widely investigated in relation to stress-related disorders. A better comprehension of the biological and epigenetic mechanisms, affected by childhood trauma and altered in BPD patients, could allow to identify "at high risk" subjects and to prevent or minimize the development of the disease later in life.

Original languageEnglish
Article number221
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Childhood trauma
  • Endogenous opioid system
  • Epigenetic mechanisms
  • HPA axis
  • Neuroimaging studies
  • Neuroplasticity
  • Neurotransmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Borderline personality disorder and childhood trauma: Exploring the affected biological systems and mechanisms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this