Executive functioning among patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and their relatives

Hila Z. Gvirts, Hagai Harari, Yoram Braw, Daphna Shefet, Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory, Yechiel Levkovitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Background: Studies focusing on executive functioning in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have shown divergent results. Moreover, little attention has been paid to the potential role of deficits in executive functions as markers of familial vulnerability to BPD. Thus, the aim of the present study was to investigate executive functions in both patients BPD and their unaffected first-degree relatives (parents). Method: We examined executive functions in four groups: patients with BPD (n=27), age-matched healthy controls (n=29), healthy unaffected parents of patients in the BPD group (n=20) and their respective age-matched controls (n=22). We administered tests that tapped three domains of executive functions: cognitive planning, sustained attention, and spatial working memory. All tests form part of the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) battery. Results: BPD patients displayed deficient executive functioning as compared to healthy controls in the domains of cognitive planning, sustained attention and working memory. Both BPD patients and their parents showed reduced latency to initiate the first move on the planning task [CANTAB's Tower of London]. All other measurements of executive functions did not differ significantly between parents of BPD patients and their respective healthy controls. Limitation: Results should be replicated with a larger sample size. Conclusions: BPD patients demonstrate a generalized profile of executive dysfunction. In the group comprising their parents, however, we found a lack of evidence for executive dysfunctions. Hence, executive dysfunctions do not appear to be markers of familial vulnerability for BPD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-264
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 20 Dec 2012


  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Executive functioning
  • Family-marker


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