Specialized Psychotherapy Helps Brain Changes In Patients With Borderline Personality Disorder

First Posted: Dec 11, 2015 03:53 PM EST

Activation patterns in certain areas of the brain change through a specialized psychotherapy for patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD), according to a recent study.

Researchers at Binghamton University recruited 10 women with BPD from the New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College and conducted neuroimaging that involved functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) methods. Patients were treated for a year with transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP)--an evidence-based treatment that helps reduce symptoms across multiple cognitive-emotional domains in BPD.

"These findings represent the genuine frontier of clinical science in understanding the effects of psychotherapy," said Mark F. Lenzenweger, a professor at the university, in a news release. "Think of it -- talk therapy that impacts neural or brain functioning."

Findings revealed that TFP treatment helped with relative activation increases in cognitive control areas, as well as relative decreases in areas associated with emotional activities. Furthermore, researchers believe that TFP may potentially facilitate symptom improvement in BPD.

"These results advance our currently limited understanding of neural mechanisms associated with psychodynamically oriented psychotherapy," wrote the researchers. "Activation in [certain parts of the brain] was associated with improvements in behavioral constraint, emotional regulation and/or aggression in patients with BPD."

The study is published in the journal Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences.

Borderline Personality Disorder is described as a serious mental illness marked by unstable behavior, moods and relationships, according to the Natiolnal Institute of Mental Health. Those who suffer from the health issue have problems regulating emotions and thoughts, unstable relationships with other people and impulsive and/or reckless behavior. An estimated 1.6 percent of the U.S. population is affected by the behavioral health issue. 

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