Brain Connectivity and Symptom Changes After Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Patients With Borderline Personality Disorder

Source: Frontiers in Psychiatry. 12 (no pagination), 2021. Article Number: 770353.

Date of Publication: 18 Jan 2022.

Authors: Sverak T.; Linhartova P.; Gajdos M.; Kuhn M.; Latalova A.; Lamos M.; Ustohal L.; Kasparek T.

OBJECTIVES: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is an innovative method in the treatment of borderline personality disorder (BPD). We hypothesized that prefrontal rTMS in patients with BPD leads to improved BPD symptoms and that these effects are associated with brain connectivity changes.

METHOD(S): Fourteen patients with BPD received 15 sessions of individually navigated prefrontal rTMS over the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Clinical effects were measured by the Borderline Symptom List 23, UPPS-P, the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS), the Zung Self-Rating Anxiety Scale (SAS), and the Montgomery and Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). Effects of rTMS on brain connectivity were observed with a seed correlation analysis on resting-state fMRI and with a beta series correlation analysis on Go/No Go tasks during fMRI. Assessments were made before and immediately after the treatment.

RESULT(S): The assessments after rTMS showed significant reductions in two subscales of UPPS-P, and in DERS, SAS, and MADRS. The brain connectivity analysis revealed significant decreases in amygdala and insula connectivity with nodes of the posterior default mode network (pDMN; precuneus, posterior cingulate cortex, parietal lobules). Connectivity changes were observed both in the resting state and during inhibition. The decrease of amygdala-pDMN connectivity was positively correlated with reduced depression and lack of premeditation after rTMS.

CONCLUSION(S): Despite the study limitations (open single-arm study in a small sample), our findings suggest a possible neural mechanism of rTMS effect in BPD, reduced amygdala connectivity with the pDMN network, which was positively associated with symptom reduction.