Friday, 11 January 2013


Anyone who has suffered through a mental illness knows all too well that it is not something you just "get over" or "snap out" of.  Mental illness is real and tangible suffering.

Need proof?  Here is a link to a very excellent science blog that lists hundreds of recent studies, tests and trials that scientists are working on around the world: The Neuroscience of Borderline Personality Disorder.

The more research that is done on BPD and other psychiatric conditions, the more that science is unfolding the physiological structures of the brain that contribute to their symptoms.

From the bits and pieces I've read so far, when it comes to BPD symptoms, the overwhelming trends are prefrontal cortex and amygdala dysfunction relating to structure and reactivity. 

When we talk about balancing Emotion Mind with our Reasonable Mind - in order to use both and be in our Wise Mind - it's possible to understand the regions of the brain that affect each.

Studies are able to show BPDs often have a smaller and hyperreactive amygdala.  This is the organ in the brain that plays a crucial role in emotional learning, memory and responses.

It's even been demonstrated that the larger your amygdala, the larger and more complex your social circle is likely to be.  This doesn't mean that BPDs are unpopular, but rather that we are more likely to struggle with emotional activities like intense social interactions, and so perhaps do them less.

The prefrontal cortex of the brain (essentially the forehead part) is responsible for the type of executive-level thinking that makes us humans as opposed to just cavemen by giving us the ability to visualise what is not physically visible - for example, the future consequences of making a decision. This means you need this part of the brain to work well in order for decision making, planning, moderating social and emotional behaviours, impulse control and goal setting.

Research in this area has shown that BPDs often demonstrate difficulty in getting parts of the prefrontal cortex to coordinate with other parts of the brain, especially the amygdala.

Generally speaking, this means it's possible to see on MRI scans the physical aspect of the struggle between Emotion Mind and Reasonable Mind when someone with BPD is emotionally triggered.

While it might be some time before we fully understand the neuropathophysiologic (yes, that's a word apparently!) basis of BPD, there is no doubt as to its existence, and no one should ever be made to feel that their mental health is any less "real" that their physical health.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe there aren't more people talking about this. Thank you so much for sharing!

    I definitely am going to dig into those articles that you linked when I am done with my "real" work today.