Evidence of Abnormal Amygdala Functioning in BPD

I found an interesting little study paper titled: Evidence of Abnormal Amygdala Functioning in
Background: Intense and rapidly changing mood states are a major feature of BPD; however, there have only been a few studies investigating affective processing in BPD, and in particular no neurofunctional correlates for abnormal emotional processing have been identified so far.
Methods: Six female BPD patients without additional major psychiatric disorder and six age-matched female control subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) to measure regional cerebral hemodynamic changes following brain activity when viewing 12 standardized emotionally aversive slides compared to 12 neutral slides, which were presented in random order.
Results: Our main finding was that BPD subjects but not control subjects were characterized by an elevated blood oxygenation level dependent fMRI signal in the amygdala on both sides. In addition, activation of the medial and inferolateral prefrontal cortex was seen in BPD patients. Both groups showed activation in the temporo-occipital cortex including the fusiform gyrus in BPD subjects but not in control subjects.
Conclusions: Enhanced amygdala activation in BPD is suggested to reflect the intense and slowly subsiding emotions commonly observed in response to even low-level stressors. Borderline subjects’ perceptual cortex may be modulated through the amygdala leading to increased attention to emotionally relevant environmental stimuli.
Borderline personality disorder is thought to arise from affective vulnerability. The inability to regulate one’s affective responses leads to marked, rapidly changing mood states and predisposes patients to various kinds of self-destructive behavior. However, there have been very few medical studies that support this. In this study BPD subjects were checked to ensure that they were neither suffering from additional Axis-I disorders or signs of current alcohol/drug abuse. This was important because the conclusion that this is a BPD trait can be reached, and not a co-morbid symptom attributed to something else. Before each study all the BPD and control patients were assessed to be in a similar baseline emotional state, loaded into an fMRI machine, and shown both neutral and stimulating slides. Brian scans were taken after each slide. The signal intensity was show to be significantly higher in the patients with BPD and not activated at all in the control group. When shown the negative stimuli, the BPD patients showed intense activation patterns in the amygdala. This was not found at all in the control group. The group went on to compare their study findings with other research and found that enhanced amygdala activation is similar to other psychiatric disorders like those noted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. From this and other studies it’s suggested that not only is the amygdala active directly by sensory information but also by thoughts and memories. Activation of the amygdala may be regarded as a manifestation of a neurobiological fear reaction. As a conclusion the activation of the amygdala could be a biological indicator of intense unpleasant emotions, especially in relation to certain {perceived negative} stimuli.
It concludes with saying that these findings are consistent with the suggestion that the amygdala serves as a rapid, transient information processing pathway for stimuli that affects behavior. For people with BPD this adaptation may be disturbed which causes emotional reactions to take longer to return to an emotional baseline.
This fear reaction, I find interesting. For those of us with BPD we quite obviously have a fear of abandonment {amongst other things}. But what causes this particular fear itself? To me the answer to this would most likely be found in the childhood/adolescent environment. So is it the environment that alters the development of the brain function, or the brain function that makes one more receptive to certain environmental factors?
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One comment on “Evidence of Abnormal Amygdala Functioning in BPD

  1. Great question at the end, to spur the endless debate of 'nature vs nurture.'It could easily be a combination of both? The physical abnormality triggers the psychological, which in turn elevates the physical response? It's tough to see if it's the chicken or the egg that came first, but regardless they're both there. Can't shove the egg back into the chicken, as it were.. (THERE'S a fun mental image for you!)

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