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Heightened brain activity in circuits involving negative emotions coupled with reduced activation of circuits that normally suppress negative emotion appear to underlie the emotional dysregulation seen in borderline personality disorder (BPD), according to an analysis of 11 published neuroimaging studies by Anthony Ruocco, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough. He and his colleagues found evidence that two interconnected neural systems may affect emotion dysregulation in BPD. One triggered “a heightened subjective perception of the intensity of negative emotions,” while the other, mainly in the frontal brain regions, poorly regulated the emotions.

“Importantly, reduced activity in a frontal area of the brain, called the subgenual anterior cingulate, may be unique to borderline personality disorder and could serve to differentiate it from other related conditions, such as recurrent major depression,” said Ruocco in the January 15 Biological Psychiatry. “[T]hese findings could suggest that dysfunctions in critical frontal ‘control’ centers might be normalized after successful treatment,” he concluded.