Background: Interpersonal difficulties in borderline personality disorder (BPD) could be related to the disturbed self-views of BPD patients. This study investigates affective and neural responses to positive and negative social feedback (SF) of BPD patients compared with healthy (HC) and low self-esteem (LSE) controls and how this relates to individual self-views.
Methods: BPD (N = 26), HC (N = 32), and LSE (N = 22) performed a SF task in a magnetic resonance imaging scanner. Participants received 15 negative, intermediate and positive evaluative feedback words putatively given by another participant and rated their mood and applicability of the words to the self.
Results: BPD had more negative self-views than HC and felt worse after negative feedback. Applicability of feedback was a less strong determinant of mood in BPD than HC. Increased precuneus activation was observed in HC to negative compared with positive feedback, whereas in BPD, this was similarly low for both valences. HC showed increased temporoparietal junction (TPJ) activation to positive v. negative feedback, while BPD showed more TPJ activation to negative feedback. The LSE group showed a different pattern of results suggesting that LSE cannot explain these findings in BPD.
Conclusions: The negative self-views that BPD have, may obstruct critically examining negative feedback, resulting in lower mood. Moreover, where HC focus on the positive feedback (based on TPJ activation), BPD seem to focus more on negative feedback, potentially maintaining negative self-views. Better balanced self-views may make BPD better equipped to deal with potential negative feedback and more open to positive interactions.