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A new light on the brains of people with borderline personality disorder
Date:8/7/2008

In a game of give and get, the brains of people with borderline personality disorder often don't get it.

In fact, an interactive economic game played between two people in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) devices revealed a brain malfunction associated with the disorder, a serious but common mental illness that affects a person's perceptions of the world and other people, said researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in a report that appears in the current issue of the journal Science.

"This may be the first time a physical signature for a personality disorder has been identified," said Dr. P. Read Montague, professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the BCM Brown Foundation Human Neuroimaging Laboratory.

In the study, directed by Dr. Brooks King-Casas, assistant professor of neuroscience and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at BCM and a member of the College's new Computational Psychiatry Unit, 55 people with borderline personality disorder played a "trust" game with 55 normal people of the same age and social and educational status.

In the game, one player called an investor sends $20 to the other called a trustee. The investment is tripled, and the trustee splits the profits with the investor. The trustee decides how much to send back, thus determining whether the investor recoups a profit or not. Profit requires cooperation between trustee and investor.

Both investor and trustee play the game while their brains are scanned by functional MRI devices through use of software called hyperscanning. The fMRI shows areas of blood flow in parts of the brain during the interaction between two people.

In this study, activity in an area of the brain called the anterior insula, known to respond when "norms" are violated, showed up on the scans. In the normal people, the anterior insula showed activity that responded in direct proportion to the amount of money se
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Contact: Dipali Pathak
pathak@bcm.edu
713-798-4710
Baylor College of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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