Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness characterized by impulsive thinking, emotional instability, antisocial behavior, problems with relationship and self-image,  and sometimes dissociation and paranoia.

The difference in behavior of a healthy person and that of the borderline personality disorder sufferer manifests itself even in small mental activities. This was shown by the researchers at Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. They observed the behavior of healthy and borderline people while playing an online strategy game. The unpredictability of borderline personality disorder sufferers resulted in their partners giving up on trying to predict what their borderline personality disorder partner would do next.

Scientists used a multi-round social interaction ‘the investor-trustee’ game to study the strategy difference in 195 players. One of the players played investor and the other a trustee,  investor chose how much money to give to the trustee and trustee, in turn, chose how much to send back to the investor.

The healthy investors were classified as: ones who simply responded to the amount the other player sent, about one-quarter built a model of their partner’s behavior and the rest considered not just the model of their partner’s behavior but also their partner’s model of them.

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Usually, the players who considered deeper interaction were likely to be successful but when healthy players played borderline personality disorder players, they did not exhibit the depth of thought. Without realizing they adopted an erratic behavior because borderlines tended to break the cooperation.

MRI of the subjects’ brain revealed that neural correlates of learning signals with differing depths of thought was shown by the each category of players.

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The scientists used hyperscanning that allowed them to observe brain activity, during the game, irrespective of the distance between the players. This technique was relatively new and scientists are hoping to understand the mental disorders in which social interactions are broken, but for that they will need new tools as typical psychiatrist approach is not good enough to determine the psychopathologies like how different regions of brain are engaged, what circuits are involved and which genetic and environmental factors play a role in psychiatric illnesses.

[Image Credit: Anna Bryukhanova | iStockphoto via VTC]