Thursday, September 5, 2013

Oxytocin May Improve Social Interaction in Borderline Personality Disorder

Oxytocin, a hormone known to influence a variety of emotional responses including attachment and social engagement, may help patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) feel less threatened socially and reduce anger and aggressive behavior associated with the disorder. 

That’s the finding from a study appearing online in AJP in Advance (August 28, 2013) by researchers at the University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

BPD is characterized by emotional hyperarousal, proneness to anger, and hostile and sometimes impulsive behaviors. Moreover, patients with BPD often have great difficulty with social interaction in part because they interpret facial and other social cues as threatening.

In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind group design, 40 adult women patients with a current DSM-IV diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and 41 healthy women took part in an emotion-classification task in which they were shown pictures of various kinds of facial cues. Forty-five minutes after the task, the subjects in the study received either intranasal administration of oxytocin or placebo.

The patients with BPD initially responded more fearfully to images of the eyes of angry faces, with increased activation of the amygdala compared with the healthy control group. However, the abnormal behavioral and neural patterns were normalized after oxytocin administration, according to the study.

“By combining eye tracking with high-resolution fMRI, we found a reduction of posterior amygdala hyperactivation, which was related to a reduced attentional bias toward socially threatening cues after oxytocin administration in borderline patients,” the researchers stated.

For the full report, see "Oxytocin and Reduction of Social Threat Hypersensitivity in Women With Borderline Personality Disorder." For more information about oxytocin, see the Psychiatric News article "Social Cognition May Improve in Schizophrenia With Oxytocin."

(Image: Juergen Faelchle/


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