Time perception, impulsivity, emotionality, and personality in self-harming borderline personality disorder patients

Heather A. Berlin, Edmund T. Rolls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


To investigate how time perception may contribute to the symptoms of self-harming Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) patients, 19 self-harming BPD inpatients and 39 normal controls were given measures of time perception, impulsivity, personality, emotion, and BPD characteristics. A test sensitive to orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) function ("Frontal" Behavior Questionnaire) was also administered, as the OFC has been associated with impulsivity and time perception. BPD patients produced less time than controls, and this correlated with impulsiveness and other characteristics commonly associated with BPD. BPD patients were also less conscientious, extraverted, and open to experience, as well as more impulsive (self-report and behaviorally), emotional, neurotic, and reported more BPD characteristics, compared to controls. The results suggest that some of these core characteristics of BPD may be on a continuum with the normal population and, impulsivity in particular, may be related to time perception deficits (i.e., a faster subjective sense of time). Finally, BPD patients scored higher on the Frontal Behavior Questionnaire, suggesting that some symptoms of the BPD syndrome may be related to problems associated with the OFC. A control spatial working memory task (SWM) revealed that SWM deficits could not explain any of the BPD patients' poor performance. While impulsivity was correlated with time perception across all participants, emotionality, introversion, and lack of openness to experience were not. This suggests that different symptoms of the borderline personality syndrome may be separable, and therefore, related to different cognitive deficits, and potentially to different brain systems. This may have important implications for treatment strategies for BPD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-378
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Personality Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2004
Externally publishedYes


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