Background. Current biological concepts of borderline personality disorder (BPD) emphasize the interference of emotional hyperarousal and cognitive functions. A prototypical example is episodic memory. Pre-clinical investigations of emotion–episodic memory interactions have shown specific retrograde and anterograde episodic memory changes in response to emotional stimuli. These changes are amygdala dependent and vary as a function of emotional arousal and valence.
Method. To determine whether there is amygdala hyper-responsiveness to emotional stimuli as the underlying pathological substrate of cognitive dysfunction in BPD, 16 unmedicated female patients with BPD were tested on the behavioural indices of emotion-induced amnesia and hypermnesia established in 16 healthy controls.
Results. BPD patients displayed enhanced retrograde and anterograde amnesia in response to presentation of negative stimuli, while positive stimuli elicited no episodic memory-modulating effects.
Conclusion. These findings suggest that an amygdala hyper-responsiveness to negative stimuli may serve as a crucial aetiological contributor to emotion-induced cognitive dysfunction in BPD.