People who have borderline personality disorder tend to have difficulty building and maintaining stable relationships, and new research suggests that the reason for this may be low empathy levels. University of Georgia investigators determined through functional MRI imaging scans that those who have this mental disorder also typically have less brain activity in brain regions that are associated with empathy.
Franklin College of Arts and Sciences psychology department assistant professor Dr. Brian Haas, who was also the lead author of the study, explained the findings. “Our results showed that people with BPD traits had reduced activity in brain regions that support empathy. This reduced activation may suggest that people with more BPD traits have a more difficult time understanding and/or predicting how others feel, at least compared to individuals with fewer BPD traits.”
The research study on borderline personality disorder and low empathy involved more than 80 participants, and the participants were asked to take a Five Factor Borderline Inventory questionnaire. This set of questions determines the degree and severity of different traits that are usually associated with this mental disorder. Imaging was then performed on each participant to measure and evaluate the activity occurring in the brain. According to Dr. Hass “Oftentimes, borderline personality disorder is considered a binary phenomenon. Either you have it or you don’t. But for our study, we conceptualized and measured it in a more continuous way such that individuals can vary along a continuum of no traits to very many BPD traits. In this study, we looked at participants who had a relatively high amount of BPD traits. I think it’d be great to study this situation in a real life scenario, such as having people with BPD traits read the emotional states of their partners.”