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1.  The Neural Correlates of Anomalous Habituation to Negative Emotional Pictures in Borderline and Avoidant Personality Disorder Patients 
Extreme emotional reactivity is a defining feature of borderline personality disorder, yet the neural-behavioral mechanisms underlying this affective instability are poorly understood. One possible contributor would be diminished ability to engage the mechanism of emotional habituation. We tested this hypothesis by examining behavioral and neural correlates of habituation in borderline patients, healthy controls, and a psychopathological control group of avoidant personality disorder patients.
During fMRI scan acquisition, borderline patients, healthy controls and avoidant personality disorder patients viewed novel and repeated pictures, providing valence ratings at each presentation. Statistical parametric maps of the contrasts of activation during repeat versus novel negative picture viewing were compared between groups. Psychophysiological interaction analysis was employed to examine functional connectivity differences between groups.
Unlike healthy controls, neither borderline nor avoidant personality disorder participants showed increased activity in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex when viewing repeat versus novel pictures. This failure to increase dorsal anterior cingulate activity was associated with greater affective instability in borderline participants. In addition, borderline and avoidant participants showed smaller insula-amygdala connectivity increases than healthy participants and did not show habituation in ratings of the emotional intensity of the images as did healthy participants. Borderline patients differed from avoidant patients in insula-ventral anterior cingulate connectivity during habituation.
Borderline patients fail to habituate to negative pictures as do healthy participants and differ from both healthy controls and avoidant patients in neural activity during habituation. A failure to effectively engage emotional habituation processes may contribute to affective instability in borderline patients.
PMCID: PMC3947284  PMID: 24275960
borderline personality disorder; avoidant personality disorder; affective instability; fMRI; functional connectivity
2.  Neural Correlates of Using Distancing to Regulate Emotional Responses to Social Situations 
Neuropsychologia  2010;48(6):1813-1822.
Cognitive reappraisal is a commonly used and highly adaptive strategy for emotion regulation that has been studied in healthy volunteers. Most studies to date have focused on forms of reappraisal that involve reinterpreting the meaning of stimuli and have intermixed social and non-social emotional stimuli. Here we examined the neural correlates of the regulation of negative emotion elicited by social situations using a less studied form of reappraisal known as distancing. Whole brain fMRI data were obtained as participants viewed aversive and neutral social scenes with instructions to either simply look at and respond naturally to the images or to downregulate their emotional responses by distancing. Three key findings were obtained accompanied with the reduced aversive response behaviorally. First, across both instruction types, aversive social images activated the amygdala. Second, across both image types, distancing activated the precuneus and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), intraparietal sulci (IPS), and middle/superior temporal gyrus (M/STG). Third, when distancing one’s self from aversive images, activity increased in dorsal anterior cingulate (dACC), medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), lateral prefrontal cortex, precuneus and PCC, IPS, and M/STG, meanwhile, and decreased in the amygdala. These findings demonstrate that distancing from aversive social cues modulates amygdala activity via engagement of networks implicated in social perception, perspective-taking, and attentional allocation.
PMCID: PMC2905649  PMID: 20226799
Emotion; Cognitive Reappraisal; Social Cognitive Neuroscience; Emotional Distancing; Emotion Regulation; fMRI
3.  Neural Correlates of the Use of Psychological Distancing to Regulate Responses to Negative Social Cues: A Study of Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder 
Biological psychiatry  2009;66(9):854.
Emotional instability is a defining feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD), yet little is understood about its underlying neural correlates. One possible contributing factor to emotional instability is a failure to adequately employ adaptive cognitive regulatory strategies such as psychological distancing.
To determine whether there are differences in neural dynamics underlying this control strategy, between BPD patients and healthy volunteers (HC’s), BOLD fMRI signals were acquired as 18 BPD and 16 HC subjects distanced from or simply looked at negative and neutral pictures depicting social interactions. Contrasts in signal between distance and look condition were compared between groups to identify commonalities and differences in regional activation.
BPD patients show a different pattern of activation compared to HC subjects when looking at negative vs. neutral pictures. When distancing vs. looking at negative pictures, both groups showed decreased negative affect in rating and increased activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, areas near/along the intraparietal sulcus (IPS), ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate/precuneus regions. However, the BPD group showed less BOLD signal change in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and IPS, less deactivation in the amygdala and greater activation in the superior temporal sulcus and superior frontal gyrus.
BPD and HC subjects display different neural dynamics while passively viewing social emotional stimuli. In addition, BPD patients do not engage the cognitive control regions to the extent that HC’s do when employing a distancing strategy to regulate emotional reactions, which may be a factor contributing to the affective instability of BPD.
PMCID: PMC2821188  PMID: 19651401
Emotion; Cognitive Reappraisal; Social Cognitive Neuroscience; Psychological Distancing; Emotion Regulation; fMRI

Results 1-3 (3)