Mount Sinai Finds Differences in Brain Scans of Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder

New research conducted by Mount Sinai physicians suggests that the brain activity of people with borderline personality disorder is different from that of people without the disorder.

New York, NY
 – March 5, 2009 /Press Release/  –– 

New research conducted by Mount Sinai physicians suggests that there are distinct differences in brain activity in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Harold Koenigsberg, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, presented these findings at a recent meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health and will appear in Psychiatric Research: Neuroimaging, later this year.

Psychiatrists have long thought that the brains of patients with BPD, a mental illness characterized by instability in mood and interpersonal relationships, were the same as those of healthy individuals.

One of the main symptoms of borderline personality disorder is the inability to regulate emotions, said Dr Koenigsberg. "Patients have a rollercoaster life, they become intensely depressed or anxious very quickly; sometimes the intense mood swings can lead to suicide."

For the study, 19 BPD patients and 17 healthy individuals viewed pleasant and disturbing images for six seconds. Using fMRI technology, researchers scanned their brains as they viewed these images. When Dr. Koenigsberg compared the brain scans of the two groups, he discovered that when the BPD patients viewed the disturbing images, they experienced greater blood flow to the amygdale, an area of the brain that is responsible for emotion regulation, and to the visual processing areas of the brain.

Our research is trying to understand what is different about the way these patients’ brains regulate emotion, said Dr. Koenigsberg. "We found that certain neural circuits in the brain light up with activity when BPD patients experience these inflammatory emotional responses."

We hope these findings will help educate patients and psychotherapists about how to treat the condition. Someday it may even help identify medications that can better control these activations in the brain, Dr Koenigsberg added.

About The Mount Sinai Medical Center
The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The Mount Sinai Hospital is one of the nation’s oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. Founded in 1852, Mount Sinai today is a 1,171-bed tertiary-care teaching facility that is internationally acclaimed for excellence in clinical care. Last year, nearly 50,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients, and there were nearly 450,000 outpatient visits to the Medical Center.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine is internationally recognized as a leader in groundbreaking clinical and basic-science research, as well as having an innovative approach to medical education. With a faculty of more than 3,400 in 38 clinical and basic science departments and centers, Mount Sinai ranks among the top 20 medical schools in receipt of National Institute of Health (NIH) grants.