In a previous study, we found that in contrast to healthy controls, hydrocortisone administration had enhancing effects on memory in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Because hydrocortisone acts on glucocorticoid receptors (GR) and mineralocorticoid receptors (MR), it is unclear which receptor mediated these effects. The aim of the current study was to test whether more selective MR stimulation with fludrocortisone improves memory in BPD.
In a placebo-controlled, randomized, within-subject, cross-over study, 39 medication-free women with BPD and 39 healthy women received placebo or 0.4 mg fludrocortisone prior to cognitive testing. We measured verbal memory, visuospatial memory, and working memory.
We found a significant group by fludrocortisone interaction on verbal memory and visuospatial memory. In both tests patients with BPD, but not healthy women, had impaired memory performance after fludrocortisone compared to placebo. In contrast, working memory was improved after fludrocortisone compared to placebo in both groups.
Contrary to our hypothesis, we found impairing effects of MR stimulation on hippocampus-mediated verbal memory and visuospatial memory in BPD but not in healthy controls. In contrast, working memory, which depends more on the prefrontal cortex, was improved after MR stimulation across groups. Future studies should systematically disentangle beneficial and adverse effects of MR stimulation in health and disease.