Magazine article Science News

Neural Circuits Foster Oversensitivity: Borderline Personality Patients Activate Brain in Specific Ways

Magazine article Science News

Neural Circuits Foster Oversensitivity: Borderline Personality Patients Activate Brain in Specific Ways

Article excerpt

People diagnosed with the mental ailment known as borderline personality disorder hemorrhage emotion. Real or perceived rejections, losses or even minor slights trigger depression and other volatile reactions that can lead to suicide.

New brain-imaging research suggests that in such people specific neural circuits foster extreme emotional oversensitivity and an inability to see other people as having both positive and negative qualities.

Psychiatrist Harold Koenigsberg of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City described his team's results January 17 in New York City at a meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

"I suspect that in social situations, people with this disorder activate the brain in unique ways," Koenigsberg says.

The findings unveil brain networks that may underlie the "faultybrakes" that borderline personality patients attempt to apply to their emotional reactions, remarks psychiatrist John Oldham of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Borderline personality disorder affects one in five psychiatric patients, says Koenigsberg. It most often affects women, especially those who are depressed, and men who display violent and criminal tendencies classed as antisocial personality disorder. About one in 10 people with borderline disorder commits suicide.

Koenigsberg's group first tested 19 adults with borderline personality disorder and 17 others with no serious psychiatric conditions. While in an fMRI scanner, participants viewed five pleasant images--such as a laughing man playing with two children--and five disturbing images, including a man assaulting a young woman. …

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