Neuronal correlates of reward and loss in Cluster B personality disorders: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study

Birgit Völlm, Paul Richardson, Shane McKie, Rebecca Elliott, Mairead Dolan, Bill Deakin, Birgit Vollm

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Decision making is guided by the likely consequences of behavioural choices. Neuronal correlates of financial reward have been described in a number of functional imaging studies in humans. Areas implicated in reward include ventral striatum, dopaminergic midbrain, amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex. Response to loss has not been as extensively studied but may involve prefrontal and medial temporal cortices. It has been proposed that increased sensitivity to reward and reduced sensitivity to punishment underlie some of the psychopathology in impulsive personality disordered individuals. However, few imaging studies using reinforcement tasks have been conducted in this group. In this fMRI study, we investigate the effects of positive (monetary reward) and negative (monetary loss) outcomes on BOLD responses in two target selection tasks. The experimental group comprised eight people with Cluster B (antisocial and borderline) personality disorder, whilst the control group contained fourteen healthy participants. A key finding was the absence of prefrontal responses and reduced BOLD signal in the subcortical reward system in the PD group during positive reinforcement. Impulsivity scores correlated negatively with prefrontal responses in the PD but not the control group during both, reward and loss. Our results suggest dysfunctional responses to rewarding and aversive stimuli in Cluster B personality disordered individuals but do not support the notion of hypersensitivity to reward and hyposensitivity to loss. © 2007 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)151-167
    Number of pages16
    JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2007


    • Antisocial personality disorder
    • Borderline personality disorder
    • fMRI
    • Orbitofrontal cortex
    • Positive reinforcement


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