Impaired working memory and normal sustained attention in borderline personality disorder

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Lazzaretti M, Morandotti N, Sala M, Isola M, Frangou S, De Vidovich G, Marraffini E, Gambini F, Barale F, Zappoli F, Caverzasi E, Brambilla P. Impaired working memory and normal sustained attention in borderline personality disorder.

Objective: Although reports in the literature describe deficits in working memory in borderline personality disorder (BPD), the evidence is limited and inconsistent. The aim of this study was to evaluate further this cognitive dimension and its clinical correlates in BPD.

Method: We compared the performance of 15 BPD patients to 1:1 matched healthy controls on verbal working memory as determined by the sequential letter N‐back test and sustained attention as measured using the continuous performance test (CPT).

Results: BPD patients performed significantly worse on the N‐back test compared to healthy controls (p < 0.05), but not on the CPT. The N‐back deficit was more pronounced and significant in the 3‐back condition and inversely correlated with impulsivity.

Conclusions: These results suggest the presence of working memory deficits in BPD that may be linked to greater impulsivity and sustained by impairment in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Interdepartmental Centre for research on Personality Disorders. Department of Applied and Behavioural Health Sciences, Section of Psychiatry, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy 2: Department of Medical and Morphological Research, Section of Statistics, University of Udine, Udine, Italy 3: Psychosis Clinical Academic Group, Section of Neurobiology of Psychosis, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK 4: Service of Radiology, IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, Pavia, Italy

Publication date: December 1, 2012



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