Imaging associations of self-injurious behaviours amongst patients with Borderline Personality Disorder: A mini-review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a severe and disabling psychiatric syndrome, frequently associated with self-injurious behaviours (SIB). In recent years, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) investigations have tried to identify alterations associated with SIB amongst BPD patients, in order to better delineate possible neurobiological underpinnings of these manifestations. In this mini-review, we aimed at summarizing fMRI studies exploring patterns of neural activation associated with SIB in BPD patients. Methods: Literature searches on PubMed, Psych-Info and Embase databases were performed for all fMRI studies including adult patients with BPD and SIB undergoing different tasks, including painful or thermic stimulation, affective stimulation through the presentation of picturesor the recollection of personal memories as well as tasks that evaluate sustained attention and impulsivity, and reward processing. Thirteen relevant papers were considered eligible for the present review. Results: Patients with BPD and SIB, compared to HC, showed prefrontal, nucleus accumbens overactivation and amygdala deactivation during pain stimulation. During negative affective stimulation, BPD patients showed a hyperactivation of the amygdala and a hypoactivation of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), which was also found to be enhanced during a gambling task and during a recalling of aversive memories. In contrast, during cognitive tasks with negative affective interference, BPD patients showed hypoactivation of OFC, anterior cingulated cortex, and basal ganglia. Limitations: The limited number of studies and the heterogeneity regarding the fMRI tasks employed allowed only suggestive conclusions. Conclusions: The reviewed fMRI studies highlighted that BPD patients with a history of SIB showed altered brain activity, compared to HC, in regions involved in inhibitory cognitive processes and affect regulation, which may in turn, explain the overwhelming emotional experiences eliciting SIB in these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781-787
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2021


  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Functional magnetic resonance
  • Self-harm
  • Self-injurious behaviours
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Imaging associations of self-injurious behaviours amongst patients with Borderline Personality Disorder: A mini-review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this