Jessica Rey presents the history of the evolution of the swimsuit including the origins of its design, how it has changed overtime and the post-feminist association of the bikini symbolizing female empowerment. She refers to neuro-scientific studies revealing how male brains react to images of scantily clad women versus images of women deemed modest and what the implications of the results are for women in society.

(Note: As the OP, I disagree with Rey’s approach to putting the onus on women to alter ourselves rather than to alter the male perception of women – brain wiring has plenty to do with socialization and if we worked against the culture that fuels men’s objectification of women, women’s clothing choices would matter far less in terms of how men perceive us and determine how to interact with us).

Jessica Rey - The Evolution of the Swim Suit

Ever wondered what your dog thinks of you? Brain scans are making that dream a reality by allowing researchers to see inside the canine mind. And what they’re learning is even better news: it turns out, our furry friends may love us as much as we love them. Read more about this research at Mic, where we’re exploring the universe in our heads with a one-month series on the latest advances in brain research. 

GIF by Julian Glander

Science shows: Yes! Trans people are born that way! We can tell from brain scans.

There are brain scans showing a significant difference in the brains of trans women and trans men.  

To quickly summarize the links of information:  Trans women’s brains are more female, and trans men’s brains are more male.  Their brain identifies more with their identified gender (as in a trans woman identifying as a woman in every day life) rather than their sex (genitalia, and such).

[New Scientist]


[New York Times]

New neuroimaging technique: Mapping Myelination

Neuroscientists have known for more than a century that myelination levels differ throughout the cerebral cortex, the gray outer layer of the brain where most higher mental functions take place.  via

Researcher, Van Essen’s journal article here  also explains how in MRI data already collected, or in less than 10 minutes, myelination images can be collected and used in conjunction with other imaging techniques to provide a more well rounded picture and understanding that we could once only see posthumously…after removing the brain, slicing it and staining it for myelin. This is important because:

Better brain maps will result, speeding efforts to understand how the healthy brain works and potentially aiding in future diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders…

The technique makes it possible for scientists to map myelination, or the degree to which branches of brain cells are covered by a white sheath known as myelin in order to speed up long-distance signaling. via

Image: “Red and yellow indicate regions with high myelin levels; blue, purple and black areas have low myelin levels." via

Brain scans could lead to consciousness ‘gold standard’

It can be nearly impossible to know what is happening in the mind of someone who has experienced a severe brain injury, but two new methods could offer some clues. Together, they provide not only a better indication of consciousness but also a more effective way to communicate with some vegetative people.

The way that a seemingly unconscious person behaves does not always reflect their mental state. Someone in a completely vegetative state may still be able to smile simply through reflex, while a perfectly alert person may be left unable to do so if a brain injury has affected their ability to move.

So a different way to assess mental state is needed. Marcello Massimini at the University of Milan in Italy and his colleagues have developed a possible solution by stimulating brains with an electromagnetic pulse and then measuring the response. The pulse acts like striking a bell, they say, and neurons across the entire brain continue to “ring” in a specific wave pattern, depending on how active the connections between individual brain cells are.

The team used this method to assess 20 people with brain injuries who were either in a vegetative state, in a minimally conscious state, or in the process of emerging from a coma. The team compared the patterns from these people with the patterns recorded from 32 healthy people who were awake, asleep or under anaesthesia. In each of the distinct states of consciousness, the researchers found, the neurons “shook” in a distinctive pattern in response to the electromagnetic pulse.

Massimini’s team proposes that each of these different patterns is a signature of a particular state of consciousness. Eventually, a doctor could use this scale, or index, to assess whether a patient is aware of their surroundings – and treat them accordingly.

Big step forward

“This is a big step forward,” says Joseph Giacino of Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the study. He says the technique needs to be replicated with more patients and will need to be corroborated with other methods, but it may provide a starting point for developing a much-needed gold standard for assessing consciousness.

A consciousness index could be used in other ways too. For instance, it might help to improve our broader understanding of exactly what consciousness is and how it can be measured, says George Mashour at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Giacino says that an index could eventually help identify which seemingly unconscious people with brain injuries are in fact sufficiently conscious to communicate with medical staff and friends or family members.

Adrian Owen at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, has previously shown that such communication is possible. In 2010, he asked people in a vegetative state a series of questions with yes/no answers, and asked them to imagine performing a complex task, such as playing tennis, whenever the answer was yes. A scanner picked up a unique pattern of brain activity that indicated whether the person is visualising this task.

However, this method is very inexact. In fact, only about three-quarters of healthy conscious people can perform the task in a way that the scanner can interpret. So when someone in a vegetative state shows little brain activity, doctors are left to wonder whether the patients are actually unconscious or simply not performing the task in a way the scanner can pick up on.

Locked-in but alert

Owen and Lorina Naci, also at the University of Western Ontario, have now developed a simpler method of determining the answers to yes/no questions given by people in a vegetative state.

After asking a yes/no question, the researchers repeated the word “yes” a number of times, interspersing the yesses with distracting, random numbers. They then did the same with “no”. The patients had been told to indicate their answer by paying close attention to how many times their desired answer was repeated. The researchers scanned the participants’ brains during this exercise to help recognise when the brain was concentrating. The task was so difficult that it was easy for the participants to ignore the answer that they didn’t want to give, Naci says.

They tested this on three people, two of whom were minimally conscious and one who had been in a persistent vegetative state for 12 years. All three patients were able to correctly answer questions about their names, for instance, or whether they were in a hospital.

Naci suspects this relatively straightforward method may reveal consciousness in more patients than had been previously thought to have it – 100 per cent of healthy, conscious people can communicate in this way. “We realise we really have to work hard to treat every patient as if they can understand and process what’s around them,” she says.

Nicholas Schiff of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City says the study is a great start, although the technique is far from ready for general use in the clinic. But in future, an extensive suite of such tools may be available to give each individual their best chance to communicate – especially as each brain injury has its own unique characteristics. “[Treating] brain injury is the ultimate in personalised medicine,” he says.

Journal references: Massimi et al paper Science Translational Medicine, 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006294; Owen and Naci paper JAMA Neurology, DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.3686

Brain scans show what makes us drink water and what makes us stop drinking

Drinking water when you’re thirsty is a pleasurable experience. Continuing to drink when you’re not, however, can be very unpleasant. To understand why your reaction to water drinking changes as your thirst level changes, Pascal Saker of the University of Melbourne and his colleagues performed fMRI scans on people as they drank water. They found that regions of the brain associated with positive feelings became active when the subjects were thirsty, while regions associated with negative feelings and with controlling and coordinating movement became active after the subjects were satiated. The research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more
Researchers can translate your thoughts into words...

That’s right, with brain scans.  So, the idea here is that when you have a thought about an object, topic, experience an emotion, construct a plan, these are "ultimately reflected in the pattern of activity across all areas of [the] brain"  to the point where Princeton researchers say, they can translate these thoughts into actual text.  

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Well, not exactly, it’s a proof of concept study (that will surely be replicated and developed further) where they can get a general idea what what your thinking. The example they use is if you think of a chair, they will know your thinking of furniture. That's definitely in the ball park.  Wearing a uniform. Getting ready to bat. See? All those things would show a similar pattern too.

 The eventual goal is to translate brain activity patterns into the correct words to fully describe thoughts, the researchers say.

This could have applications for helping people with disabilities, for whom brain scans might be able to elucidate their thinking more effectively than pictures. via

Hmm mmm. But it will be used for other reasons too, and maybe sooner then we think. I’ll get to that later.

Image.    Full article.
Fact or Factitious? A Psychobiological Study of Authentic and Simulated Dissociative Identity States

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a disputed psychiatric disorder. Research findings and clinical observations suggest that DID involves an authentic mental disorder related to factors such as traumatization and disrupted attachment. A competing view indicates that DID is due to fantasy proneness, suggestibility, suggestion, and role-playing. Here we examine whether dissociative identity state-dependent psychobiological features in DID can be induced in high or low fantasy prone individuals by instructed and motivated role-playing, and suggestion.

DID patients, high fantasy prone and low fantasy prone controls were studied in two different types of identity states (neutral and trauma-related) in an autobiographical memory script-driven (neutral or trauma-related) imagery paradigm. The controls were instructed to enact the two DID identity states. Twenty-nine subjects participated in the study: 11 patients with DID, 10 high fantasy prone DID simulating controls, and 8 low fantasy prone DID simulating controls. Autonomic and subjective reactions were obtained. Differences in psychophysiological and neural activation patterns were found between the DID patients and both high and low fantasy prone controls. That is, the identity states in DID were not convincingly enacted by DID simulating controls. Thus, important differences regarding regional cerebral bloodflow and psychophysiological responses for different types of identity states in patients with DID were upheld after controlling for DID simulation.

The findings are at odds with the idea that differences among different types of dissociative identity states in DID can be explained by high fantasy proneness, motivated role-enactment, and suggestion. They indicate that DID does not have a sociocultural (e.g., iatrogenic) origin.

This article follows a study on the biological and neurological differences in others in DID systems, along with a control group with simulated (or faked) multiplicity.

Again, the findings are that DID is NOT caused by any social influence or fantasy proneness, and thus the sociocultural model (which states DID is caused by cultural influence (‘people have DID because they’ve heard of it(/someone convinced them the have it/they convinced themselves they have it)’) is wrong.

(There is a lot more information in the article, but a lot of it is medical terminology and numbers, so here’s a highlight:)

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(In all of these the left is the people with DID, the middle and right are both control groups (that tried to fake DID - middle being with high fantasy-proneness, the right being low fantasy-proneness))

  1. The first picture is the difference between others considered trauma-related identity state (TIS) and normal identity state (NIS).
  2. The second picture is the difference in regional cerebral fluid between trauma-related text (with a small ’t’) and neutral text (“n”).
  3. The third picture is the difference in processing of the trauma-related text between TIS & NIS.

As you can see, the controls (which intended to simulate DID) were not able to replicate what goes on in a brain with DID - they couldn’t replicate the difference in others (and how about that difference! WOWA!), nor the brain’s reaction to trauma stimuli and regular stimuli.

I namely wanted to post the brain scans because it’s not very often we come across brain scans showing the difference, and a lot of people try to say that there’s no difference in brain scans between people with DID and people without DID (which is honestly not true).

To boot, this is a study that had controls who were attempting to fake DID - which proves without a doubt that it’s really not as simple as 'playing make-believe’ or acting/roleplaying.

Computer can read letters directly from the brain

By analysing MRI images of the brain with an elegant mathematical model, it is possible to reconstruct thoughts more accurately than ever before. In this way, researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen have succeeded in determining which letter a test subject was looking at. The journal Neuroimage has accepted the article, which will be published soon. A preliminary version of the article can be read online.

Functional MRI scanners have been used in cognition research primarily to determine which brain areas are active while test subjects perform a specific task. The question is simple: is a particular brain region on or off? A research group at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour at Radboud University has gone a step further: they have used data from the scanner to determine what a test subject is looking at. The researchers ‘taught’ a model how small volumes of 2x2x2 mm from the brain scans - known as voxels - respond to individual pixels. By combining all the information about the pixels from the voxels, it became possible to reconstruct the image viewed by the subject. The result was not a clear image, but a somewhat fuzzy speckle pattern. In this study, the researchers used hand-written letters.

Prior knowledge improves model performance
‘After this we did something new’, says lead researcher Marcel van Gerven. ‘We gave the model prior knowledge: we taught it what letters look like. This improved the recognition of the letters enormously. The model compares the letters to determine which one corresponds most exactly with the speckle image, and then pushes the results of the image towards that letter. The result was the actual letter, a true reconstruction.’

‘Our approach is similar to how we believe the brain itself combines prior knowledge with sensory information. For example, you can recognise the lines and curves in this article as letters only after you have learned to read. And this is exactly what we are looking for: models that show what is happening in the brain in a realistic fashion. We hope to improve the models to such an extent that we can also apply them to the working memory or to subjective experiences such as dreams or visualisations. Reconstructions indicate whether the model you have created approaches reality.’

Improved resolution; more possibilities
‘In our further research we will be working with a more powerful MRI scanner,’ explains Sanne Schoenmakers, who is working on a thesis about decoding thoughts. ‘Due to the higher resolution of the scanner, we hope to be able to link the model to more detailed images. We are currently linking images of letters to 1200 voxels in the brain; with the more powerful scanner we will link images of faces to 15,000 voxels.’

 Criminally Flawed Mind Reading Technologies?

FAST (Future Attribute Screening Technology) is only the latest in a series of methods and technologies employed to probe suspects for scientific evidence of guilt, deceit, or criminal designs, stretching back to the earliest days of the polygraph lie detector in 1921. 

(…) thermal cameras, microphones and a laser radar that can measure heart rate and perspiration, FAST is designed to surreptitiously scan airport travelers for nervous behaviors, rapid blinking, or any other signs that might indicate intentions to commit violent terrorist acts…”  Via by tvjrennie

With a track record in the lab of only 78-80% accuracy and unknown rates of false positives and false negatives, you would think this type of technology isn’t ready for use in the court - but some say that if the technology, however imperfect, is meaningfully better than the next best alternative technique currently deployed in the legal process" then it should be introduced. 

Image: DHS/TSA Via

Criminal Minds Are Different From Yours, Brain Scans Reveal

These brain scans of psychopaths show a deformation in the amygdala compared to non-psychopaths, from a study by Adrian Raine and colleagues.

 In the psychopaths, the researchers observed deformations in another part of the brain called the amygdala, with the psychopaths showing a thinning of the outer layer of that region called the cortex and, on average, an 18-percent volume reduction in this part of brain.

“The amygdala is the seat of emotion. Psychopaths lack emotion. They lack empathy, remorse, guilt,” said research team member Adrian Raine, chair of the Department of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., last month.

Brain scans of inmates turn up possible link to risks of reoffending

It began with a casual question that neuroscientist Kent Kiehl posed to a postdoctoral fellow in his laboratory who had been conducting brain scans on New Mexico prison inmates.

“I asked, ‘Does ACC activity predict the risk of reoffending?’” Kiehl recalls, using the scientific shorthand for the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain structure associated with error processing.

The postdoctoral fellow, Eyal Aharoni, decided to find out. When he compared 96 inmates whose brains had been monitored while they performed a test that measures impulsiveness, he discovered a stark contrast: Those with low ACC activity were about twice as likely to commit crimes within four years of being released as those with high ACC activity.

Brain scans: An article in the July 15 Section A about brain scans of prison inmates said Owen D. Jones, a Vanderbilt University professor of law and biology, had come to view the lack of empathy displayed by psychopaths as a missing skill, akin to a dyslexic’s inability to read. The comment was made by neuroscientist Kent Kiehl of the Mind Research Network. —

“We cannot say with certainty that all who are in the high-risk category will reoffend — just that most will,” Kiehl says. “It has very big implications for how we think about treatment and rehabilitation.”

The study is the latest paper from Kiehl’s lab reporting on experiments performed in a powerful functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner mounted in a semi-trailer. Kiehl and his team at the nonprofit Mind Research Network have used the scanner to study the brains of nearly 3,000 convicted criminals at facilities in New Mexico and Wisconsin since 2007.

Each inmate who volunteers for testing is paid a small hourly stipend and receives a copy of the brain scan, Kiehl says. But the scan is just part of a lengthy process in which Kiehl’s assistants interview the inmates, review their prison files and assign scores on the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, a standard test for measuring psychopathy.

The MRI trailer is parked in a secure area of the prison compound, but no guards are present during the testing, Kiehl says. “Our staff are trained in prison security protocols,” he says.

The trove of data they have gathered has revealed telltale abnormalities in the structure and functioning of psychopaths’ brains. On the whole, they have less gray matter in the paralimbic system — believed to help regulate emotion — which may help account for their characteristic glibness, pathological lying, lack of empathy and tendency to act impulsively.

Kiehl often briefs judges and legal groups on his findings and has consulted in more than 100 criminal cases where, for example, psychopathy might be raised as a mitigating factor to account for a defendant’s impaired self-control.

The mere suggestion that it might be possible to predict future criminal behavior may conjure up such futuristic films as “Minority Report,” but Kiehl cautioned that the new study merely averages test results from a large group and cannot at this point predict whether any particular individual will reoffend.

But with further refinement, he says, brain imaging might one day be considered in civil commitment proceedings, where convicted sexual offenders can be held indefinitely if it is believed they have a propensity to reoffend.

Predictions about whether an offender poses an ongoing danger to society “already play roles in a variety of legal contexts, such as in deciding whether to sentence a criminal offender to a mental health facility, deciding whether to grant parole and the like,” said Owen D. Jones, a Vanderbilt University professor of law and biology and director of the MacArthur Foundation Law and Neuroscience Project, which helped fund Kiehl’s study.

Describing the study as interesting and well-designed, Jones said the neuroscience of criminal behavior was evolving so rapidly that courts and lawmakers could barely keep up. “Although there are efforts underway to help the legal system close that gap, the gap remains,” he said. “This poses challenges to the fair and effective administration of justice.”

After hundreds of encounters with psychopaths, Jones has come to view their distinctive lack of empathy as a missing skill, akin to a dyslexic’s inability to read.

Some experts see psychopathy as an incurable defect, but Kiehl cites neuroplasticity — the brain’s lifelong ability to remold itself in the face of new stimuli — as cause for optimism: New therapies might be developed to bolster the psychopathic brain’s underactive empathy circuits, he says.

Selling that idea to judges and lawmakers, however, is likely to be an uphill battle. “The problem is, people don’t think about empathy as an ability,” he said. “They take it for granted.”

Kiehl, who has received inquiries from neuroscientists throughout North America and Europe about using his mobile MRI for data collection, is hard at work adding to the existing database of New Mexico and Wisconsin inmates.

“There are also other opportunities where it could be leased commercially,” Kiehl says. “We’re going to go international.”

 “fMRI images and images from other current functional neuroimaging technologies are not direct images of brain activity, but theory-laden representations of the outcomes of statistical analyses performed upon data about metabolic activity in the brain gathered in highly controlled settings when subjects respond to often very artificial and carefully hand-crafted questions." 

                  —Says Nicole Vincent in Neuroimaging and Responsibility Assessments

BPD: Brain Physiology & Mindfulness

I hate you, don’t leave me.
I love you, go away.

In recent years, developments in neuroscience have offered significant breakthroughs in understanding the brain chemistry that contributes to the behaviors and suffering associated with borderline personality disorder. While mindfulness cannot change your genes, research is beginning to show that it can change the way your genes work (Smalley 2010).

The adult brain weighs about three pounds. It connects to the spinal cord through the brain stem, which contains bundles of nerve cells, or neurons. In the treatment of borderline personality disorder, the most significant parts of the brain are the amygdala, an almond-shaped group of neurons deep inside each hemisphere of the brain, and the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the part of each of the brain’s two hemispheres located right behind the forehead and responsible for controlling executive functions. Executive functions include:

  • Mediating conflicting thoughts
  • Making choices between right and wrong, or good and bad
  • Predicting future events
  • Governing social control (ex. suppressing the urge to have sex with your significant other on the bus)

Typically, the PFC regulates the amygdala and the rest of the limbic system. For instance, imagine that you are wearing a light-colored jacket at a family reunion, and your hyperactive brother, who is excited to see you, trips and spills his glass of red wine all over you. Your amygdala processes the information, and you get angry at him. You want to lash out and yell at him, but your PFC steps in and says “I know you want to yell at him, but it would ruin the reunion, and if you yell at him, he will get upset and not talk to you for a week. You can still be mad at him, but go get another jacket and talk to him later.” These exchanges among the various parts of your brain happen very quickly, many without your awareness. Because your PFC is in charge of regulating your amygdala, you can see what would happen if your PFC were either not working well or not fully developed. You would have reduced ability to control the impulse to lash out.

People with BPD are often called “impulsive,” and it’s a fact that the PFC is not as active in people with BPD as in those without. Conversely, in people who have BPD, the amygdala is very active, almost too active, so emotional responses that arise tend to be big. If you have a big emotional response, the behaviors that arise from that response also tend to be intense. In BPD sufferers, the overactive, under controlled amygdala is to blame for overwhelming power of emotional responses.

Another interesting role of the amygdala is in the making of memories. Memories tied to strong emotions, in particular. For example, imagine that you go up to an unfamiliar dog that’s wandering in the park, and the dog growls at you and then bites you. You experience fear, and the memory is registered and locked in, making it less likely that you will go up to strange dogs in the future. From an evolutionary perspective, the amygdala would have helped keep us away from all sorts of dangers, like saber-toothed tigers. In BPD, this response is magnified, and then, rather than their serving simply as a warning system, the memories, paired with strong emotions, play over and over, causing suffering even after the danger has passed.

The most consistent finding in imaging studies of people with BPD, compared to those without BPD, is increased activity in the amygdala, particularly if they also experience suicidal thoughts (Soloff et al. 2012). So finding a way to reduce this activity is critical to reducing the flow of unrelenting emotions in BPD.

Some of the most fascinating tests that investigate the neurobiology of BPD, including brain scans that track the activity of neurotransmitters, have allowed researchers to investigate the neurobiology of BPD by examining brain chemistry. Studies have shown that having a less active PFC means having a more difficult time with emotion regulation.

Brain scans have shown that people with impulsive aggression, who engage in such behaviors as self-mutilation, physical violence, assault, destruction or property, and drug use—one of the most well-researched areas of BPD—have lower levels of activity in the PFC (Spoont, 1992), and that people with BPD also have less brain activity in the PFC (Goyer et al. 1994).

Most brain-scanning studies reveal that people with BPD show disordered functioning in the PFC, compared to people without BPD, and this is particularly true if the person with BPD also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Findings on BPD and genetics have shown that you can, in fact, inherit impulsive aggression (Coccaro, Bergeman, and McClearn 1993).

There are three main neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals, that have been studied in BPD.

  1. Opiates are released (under ordinary circumstances) by the brain to dull pain in response to body-tissue damage. It appears that people with BPD who self-injure have lower levels of natural opiates compared to people with BPD who don’t self-injure (Stanley et al. 2010). Many people who take opiate painkillers report a feeling of wellness, so some theorize that people with BPD self-injure to increase their levels of natural opiates in order to feel better. In fact, many people with BPD who self-injure state that they do feel better, even if just for a brief period of time after engaging in the behavior (Simeon et al. 1992). Research shows that if you have BPD and self-injure, you won’t perceive pain as much as someone without BPD does (Bohus et al. 2000). This means that self-injury (like cutting) that would typically cause someone without BPD to feel pain might not cause others as much pain. But people with BPD have more pain syndromes, such as headaches and muscle, abdominal, and back pain, than those without BPD (Tragesser, Bruns, and Disorbio 2010).
  2. Serotonin plays an important role in the regulation of mood, sleep, and learning. It is found throughout the brain and the digestive system, and has been implicated in depression, suicide, anxiety, and appetite regulation. Studies show that people with BPD have low levels of serotonin activity, and that this is associated with impulsive aggression (Goodman and New 2000). Research also shows that low serotonin activity is associated with suicide attempts (Lidberg et al. 2000) and self-injury (New et al. 1997).
  3. Cortisol is a chemical released during stress that helps to break down carbohydrates and proteins in order to increase the supply of glucose and oxygen in the muscles, heart, and brain. But high levels of cortisol over a prolonged period of time lead to an increase in blood pressure and an increase in sugar levels, both of which lead to unhealthy fat build-up in the abdomen, thinning of bones, and prevention of collagen formation. High cortisol levels also suppress immune-system response and cause the body to age faster. Over time, exposure to high levels of cortisol damages and reduces the number of cells in the hippocampus, which is the brain’s memory center. Research shows that not only people with BPD have high levels of cortisol (Wingfeld et al. 2007), but also that these high levels predict a higher risk of suicide over time (Lester and Bean 1992).

Using real-time brain imaging, a team of researchers led by Harold W. Koenigsberg, MD, professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, have discovered that patients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are physically unable to properly regulate emotion, by activating neurological networks that would help to control feelings.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers viewed how the brains of people with BPD reacted to social and emotional stimuli.

Koenigsberg found that when people with BPD attempted to control and reduce their reactions to disturbing emotional scenes, the anterior cingulate cortex and intraparetical sulci areas of the brain that are active in healthy people under the same conditions remained inactive in the BPD patients.

“This research shows that BPD patients are not able to use those parts of the brain in the same way healthy people use to help regulate their emotions,” said Dr. Koenigsberg. “This may explain why their emotional reactions are so extreme. The biological underpinnings of the disordered emotional control systems are central to borderline pathology. Studying which areas of the brain function differently in patients with borderline personality disorder can lead to more targeted uses of psychotherapy and medications, and also provide a link to connect the genetic basis of the disorder.”

Characteristics of BPD include being so emotionally overreactive that they suffer alternating bouts of depression, anxiety and anger, are interpersonally hypersensitive, and are impelled to self-destructive and even suicidal behavior.

Patients with BPD often exhibit other types of impulsive behaviors, including excessive spending, binge eating and risky sex. BPD often occurs together with other psychiatric problems, particularly depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, and other personality disorders.

“It’s not just that they have too much drive from their emotions. They seem to have less of the ‘brakes’ to try to curb those emotions and to help regulate their intensity.” Says Anthony C. Ruocco, assistant professor in the department of psychology and program in neuroscience at the University of Toronto. His team analyzed data from 11 previously published studies and confirmed a number of important differences between people with BPD and those without.

The findings fit well with symptoms seen in people with BPD, Ruocco says. “The hallmark symptom that people describe is emotion dysregulation—you’re happy one moment, and the next moment you’re feeling angry or sad or depressed. People with BPD can cycle through emotions, usually negative ones, quite rapidly.”

More important is how the findings might be useful in diagnosis and treatment. One challenge is that BPD often occurs with other disorders, such as major depression, which can make it harder to identify and treat.

The new results raise the possibility that brain imaging could be used to make a more definitive diagnosis of BPD. In the future it might also help determine what treatments are most likely to be effective for an individual patient, based on what the imaging studies show about their brain function before they even begin treatment.

In the past decade, more and more psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals have incorporated mindfulness meditation training into their psychotherapy practice. Mindfulness meditation has many treatment applications, including major depressive disorder, chronic pain, generalized anxiety disorder, andborderline personality disorder (BPD).

Mindfulness meditation has been defined in many ways, but perhaps one of the most widely-used definitions comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., (the creator of a treatment for stress and chronic pain called “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction”), who defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

When you practice mindfulness meditation, you practice being in the present moment, and noticing all of your experiences. You practice being aware of things happening outside of yourself (e.g., things you see, smell, hear), and things happening internally (e.g., your thoughts, feelings and sensations). Importantly, mindfulness meditation involves being aware without judgment. So, you are paying attention to all of these experiences, without labeling them as good or bad.

Mindfulness is a concept that comes from the Buddhist spiritual tradition. For almost almost 3,000 years, Buddhist monks have practiced mindfulness meditation – but in recent years mindfulness practice has become increasingly widespread and applied outside of the Buddhism. In fact, most Eastern practitioners who use mindfulness think of it as a skill that can be used separately from any kind of religious or spiritual practice. 

Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., who created Dialectical Behavior Therapy for BPD was one of the first to apply mindfulness meditation training to the treatment of BPD. Often, individuals with BPD not only experience intense emotions, they can become “stuck” in these emotions and judge both the emotions and themselves (e.g., “This is a terrible feeling and I am such a weak person for feeling this way”). Unfortunately, this can end up making the emotion feel even more intense. And, judgmental thoughts can add other emotions to the mix — if you tell yourself you are weak for feeling sad you may end up feeling both sad and ashamed.

Mindfulness meditation training can help people with BPD to feel less “stuck” in their emotions, and less judgmental of the emotions and themselves. Mindfulness meditation training may also help individuals with BPD be more effective in applying healthy coping skills in the midst of emotional pain, because mindfulness skills allow you to get just a little bit of space to be able to notice the emotion and be more strategic in terms of how you will act in the face of the emotion.

For the sufferer of BPD, feelings of hopelessness can be pervasive. Those folks with BPD willing to seek help may have been to a number of treatment centers or countless therapists; they may have spent many late evenings in the emergency room of their local hospital. At times things seem to be getting better. Then something happens and they feel as if they have made no progress at all.

Family members also struggle in their ability to understand or feel compassion for themselves or their loved one—especially when something has triggered symptoms. Sometimes, in well-meaning attempts to help control the behaviors of one suffering from BPD, fears of abandonment or feelings of anger get triggered and both family members or friends and those suffering the symptoms of BPD feel like retreating to their own corners.

Borderline personality disorder is part heritable and part environmental. When a person begins to practice mindfulness skills, they are targeting the part that is environmental (approximately 40%), and this can lead to a much-improved life. In fact, this can lead to a much-improved brain, even if one has never practiced mindfulness before.

Tthere are some great books out there to get started: Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder by Gillian Galen and Blaise Aguirre, a psychiatrist widely recognized for his work in the treatment of personality disorders. Jon Kabat Zinn’s Mindfulness for Beginners,” or How to Train A Wild Elephant, by Jan Chozen Bays, MD, or One Minute Mindfulness, by Donald Altman.  

A fascinating study by Richard Davidson (2001) clearly demonstrates how a certain kind of mindfulness practice actually increases activity in the left side of the brain, the left prefrontal cortex. This side of the brain is where we generate positive feelings, such as joy and well-being, while the right prefrontal cortex is activated by negative thoughts and emotions.

By practicing purposely focusing our thoughts on feelings of love and compassion towards others, the left prefrontal cortex is activated. Dr. Blaise Aguirre writes about this in this quarter’s issue of Borderline Personality Disorder Magazine. According to Aguirre, “The data thus shows that regular practice of loving compassion activates the area of the brain that experiences joy and that allows us to consider that others might experience things differently from the way that we do. Both of these ideas are of profound importance to developing well-being in people with BPD.”

That means that with regular practice, one can up the level of activity in the part of the brain that leads to more happiness and can lower the activity in the right prefrontal cortex, where negative thoughts and emotions seem to reside. Also it is possible to experience more compassion for themselves when facing problems regulating their emotions.

Daily practice is key to making changes in your brain circuitry. Once a behavior is over-learned, it is the “go to,” behavior, and you do not have to relearn it. It’s much like learning how to ride a bike. At first you felt uncomfortable. You had to try to coordinate the actions of your feet on the pedals, pushing them forward, and steering all at the same time. You also had to think about how to use the break when you needed it. It took practice.

Many of you started with training wheels, and that first ride without them was scary and exciting. You built a skill. You mastered it. Now, if you didn’t ride a bike for several years, chances are you could still just climb aboard and go! Your muscles overlearned the skill and it became second nature.

It is the same with any skill. If you learn some deep-breathing exercises, unless you overlearn them by practicing them daily, you will be hard pressed to find them helpful the next time you have a major panic attack.

So on a daily basis, practice loving-kindness mindfulness. Think of someone for whom you already have feelings of love and care. Meditate on that person for 10-20 minutes, purposely drawing your heart toward them with thoughts for their well-being and love. As you continue this practice, add others to your list. As Aguirre suggests in his book, eventually offer this compassion in your mind to all of mankind…and especially yourself! Picture this exercise activating the positive areas of your brain and lowering activity in the negative areas of your brain.

There are a variety of ways to begin practicing mindfulness meditation. Usually you can begin practicing mindfulness by trying some exercises that promote mindfulness. To get started, try these exercises:

Brain scans explain Emotional dysregulation in people with BPD

Using real-time brain imaging, a team of researchers have discovered that patients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are physically unable to regulate emotion.

The findings, by Harold W. Koenigsberg, MD, professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine suggest individuals with BPD are unable activate neurological networks that would help to control feelings.

The research will be published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers viewed how the brains of people with BPD reacted to social and emotional stimuli.

Koenigsberg found that when people with BPD attempted to control and reduce their reactions to disturbing emotional scenes, the anterior cingulate cortex and intraparetical sulci areas of the brain that are active in healthy people under the same conditions remained inactive in the BPD patients.

“This research shows that BPD patients are not able to use those parts of the brain that healthy people use to help regulate their emotions,” said Dr. Koenigsberg.

“This may explain why their emotional reactions are so extreme. The biological underpinnings of the disordered emotional control systems are central to borderline pathology. Studying which areas of the brain function differently in patients with borderline personality disorder can lead to more targeted uses of psychotherapy and medications, and also provide a link to connect the genetic basis of the disorder.”

According to background information in the article, borderline personality disorder is a common condition, affecting up to two percent of all adults in the United States, mostly women.

Characteristics of BPD include being so emotionally overreactive that they suffer alternating bouts of depressionanxiety and anger, are interpersonally hypersensitive, and are impelled to self-destructive and even suicidal behavior.

Patients with BPD often exhibit other types of impulsive behaviors, including excessive spending, binge eating and risky sex. BPD often occurs together with other psychiatric problems, particularly bipolardisorder, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and other personality disorders.

The disorder is found in 10 to 20 percent of people in psychiatric care, and about 10 percent of people with this condition ultimately die of suicide. Only recently have researchers begun to identify underlying biological factors associated with the condition.

anonymous asked:

Im relation to the brain scan ask, why can't they just get a bunch of diagnosed autistics V's allistics and scan their brains and look for a common occurrence? Isn't that how tests are done?

Well, yes, and they’ve done this. They didn’t find anything distinctive enough to use as a diagnostic tool or new theory. Researchers in the field will try this again with new tools, theories and perspectives. That’s their job. But absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, which is why I laid out a bunch of explanations for why no simple test has yet been found, and why one may not be found for a long time, that don’t undermine the idea of autism as “brains working differently”.

For context, there’s a few old theories about autism as being driven by either failures of parenting, or social and moral failures of the child. These were dismissive, harmful and inconsistent with later studies, and have (slowly) been slipping out of most discussion of autism. I respect the question, but I don’t want to give a sound bite that, out of context, sounds like I and this blog support those theories. So no, there isn’t a known way to consistently sort brain scans into “autistic” and “allistic” short of talking to the patients. And if we knew why not, we’d also know a lot more about where to look next than we do now.

- Mara