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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and bipolar disorder (BD) are common psychiatric diagnoses. Impulsivity and affective instability are prominent features of both illnesses, complicate treatment and are associated with poor clinical outcomes. Yet, little is known about sensorimotor control in these populations, whether they differ in their speed and accuracy of performance, and their ability to restore efficient performance following errors.Twenty females with DSM-IV BPD, 20 females with DSM-IV BD and 20 age- and cognitive-ability matched healthy control participants completed a simple, brief reaction time task in which two single-attribute stimuli were mapped to distinct motor responses.Inspection of response latencies and errors showed that both the BPD and BD participants were able to respond as quickly and accurately as controls, reducing reaction times gently prior to errors, but that BPD participants showed prolonged post-error slowing (PES) before resuming normative levels of speed and accuracy.BD and BPD participants were taking psychotropic medication.These findings suggest that BPD and BD individuals can achieve normative speed-accuracy trade-offs; but that only BPD individuals exhibit differentially slowed recovery following errors, indicating a specific impartment in basic sensorimotor control.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of affective disorders

Publication Date





163 - 170


University Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX, United Kingdom. Electronic address: