Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Different components of impulsivity in relation to emotional stress in patients with Borderline Personality Disorder and patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

How does stress affect different components of behavioral impulsivity and aggression in patients with Borderline Personality Disorder compared to clinical controls (patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and healthy controls?

Anne Krause-Utz
German Research Foundation Grant
Clinical Research Unit 256


This project is part of a collaboration between Leiden University and the Central Institute of Mental

Impulsivity is a core feature of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The construct impulsivity comprises multiple components including stable personality traits (e.g., lack of perseverance, restlessness), state-dependent urges and deficits in executive functions (e.g., increased distractibility, risky decision making, delay discounting). On the behavioral level, impulse control does not only involve the ability to withhold actions (e.g., awaiting a turn instead of interrupting others) but also the capacity to cancel already initiated actions and the ability to delay rewards. Accordingly, impulsivity can be assessed by different behavioral measures (e.g., interference inhibition tasks, response inhibition tasks such as Go/No-Go and Stop-Signal-Tasks, as well as delay discounting tasks). In individuals with BPD, typical expressions of impulsivity (e.g., substance abuse, binge eating, or reckless driving) primarily occur during emotional distress and might be regarded as (potentially self-harming) attempts to cope with negative affective states. However, studies investigating the impact of stress on different aspects of impulsivity and impulsive aggression in BPD patients compared to clinical controls and healthy controls are still missing. Within the present project, the impact of experimentally induced stress on different components of impulsivity is investigated in women with BPD, women with adult ADHD and female healthy controls. The study takes place on different dates. On one day, participants are asked to complete a broad battery of self-report questionnaires (on state and trait impulsivity) and laboratory tasks (Go/No-Go, Stop-Signal-Task, Delay Discounting task, impulsive aggression paradigm) as well as basic neuropsychological tests (vocabulary test, matrices test, n-back task) during “resting” (baseline) conditions. On another day (in randomized order), participants perform these behavioral tasks after an experimental stress induction (Mannheim Multicomponent Stress Task). As another part of the present project, participants perform an ”Emotional Stop Signal Task”: During this task, neutral versus emotional (positive, negative) pictures are presented as distractors in the context of a Stop Signal Task. Furthermore, the impact of stress on impulsive aggression (self-reports and performance on the Point Subtraction Aggression Paradigm) is studies in male compared to female patients with BPD, adult ADHD, and healthy controls.

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