Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci.  2017 Nov;15(4):343-351. 10.9758/cpn.2017.15.4.343.

Monoamine Oxidase-A Genetic Variants and Childhood Abuse Predict Impulsiveness in Borderline Personality Disorder

  • 1Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
  • 3Department of Psychiatry, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada.


OBJECTIVE: Impulsivity is a core feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) that likely arises from combined genetic and environmental influences. The interaction of the low activity variant of the monoamine oxidase-A (MAOA-L) gene and early childhood adversity has been shown to predict aggression in clinical and non-clinical populations. Although impulsivity is a risk factor for aggression in BPD and ASPD, little research has investigated potential gene-environment (G×E) influences impacting its expression in these conditions. Moreover, G×E interactions may differ by diagnosis.
Full factorial analysis of variance was employed to investigate the influence of monoamine oxidase-A (MAO-A) genotype, childhood abuse, and diagnosis on Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11 (BIS-11) scores in 61 individuals: 20 subjects with BPD, 18 subjects with ASPD, and 23 healthy controls.
A group×genotype×abuse interaction was present (F(2,49)=4.4, p=0.018), such that the interaction of MAOA-L and childhood abuse predicted greater BIS-11 motor impulsiveness in BPD. Additionally, BPD subjects reported higher BIS-11 attentional impulsiveness versus ASPD participants (t(1,36)=2.3, p=0.025).
These preliminary results suggest that MAOA-L may modulate the impact of childhood abuse on impulsivity in BPD. Results additionally indicate that impulsiveness may be expressed differently in BPD and ASPD.


Antisocial personality disorder; Borderline personality disorder; Early adverse experiences; Impulsivity; Monoamine oxidase A
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