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Genetic modulation of facial emotion recognition in borderline personality disorder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Leire Erkoreka, Iker Zamalloa, Santiago Rodriguez, Pedro Muñoz, Ana Catalan, Aurora Arrue, M. Isabel Zamalloa, Miguel Angel Gonzalez-Torres, Mercedes Zumarraga

Original languageEnglish
Article number109816
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Early online date15 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2020

King's Authors


Facial emotion recognition (FER) has been described to be impaired in borderline personality disorder (BPD), especially for neutral faces. Genetic modulation of FER has been studied in healthy individuals and some psychiatric conditions, but no genetic association studies have been conducted in BPD hitherto. The main objective of our study was to explore the influence of the serotonin-transporter-linked promoter region (5HTTLPR) and catechol-o-methyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met on facial emotion processing among BPD patients. To that end, seventy-six BPD outpatients were asked to complete a computer-based facial affect recognition task, representing four emotions (neutral, happy, fearful or angry). Accuracy of FER and perceptual biases were calculated. The 5HTTLPR and COMT Val158Met polymorphisms were genotyped using saliva samples. Individuals with the high-activity serotonin-transporter genotype and those with the low-activity COMT genotype had significantly more difficulties identifying neutral faces; the former showed stronger bias to perceive neutral faces as happy, and the latter, neutral faces as fearful. Interestingly, the perceptual biases observed in our patients are similar to previous reports in healthy individuals. The authors propose that the ability to accurately recognize neutral faces might be a possible endophenotype of BPD. Sex-genotype interactions were also observed in relation to angry faces and 5HTTLPR, and neutral faces and COMT Val158Met polymorphisms, in line with sex-related differences previously described for both polymorphisms in relation to FER and other cognitive and behavioral outcomes. The impact of inaccurate FER on psychosocial functioning and potential interventions are also discussed.

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