From the Journals

Predicting BPD vs. bipolar treatment response: New imaging data



A new study identifies specific brain regions involved in treatment response in bipolar disorder (BD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD), potentially paving the way for more targeted treatment.

In a meta-analysis of 34 studies that used neuroimaging to investigate changes in brain activation following psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy for BD and BPD, investigators found most brain regions showing abnormal activation in both conditions improved after treatment. In particular, changes in brain activity after psychotherapy were found primarily in the frontal areas, whereas pharmacotherapy largely altered the limbic areas.

This study can help clinicians with clinical prediction of treatment efficacy between BD and BPD and clarify the neural mechanism of treatment for these two diseases,” senior investigator Xiaoming Li, PhD, professor, department of medical psychology, Anhui Medical University, Hefei, China, told this news organization.

“It may also contribute to the identification of more accurate neuroimaging biomarkers for treatment of the two disorders and to the finding of more effective therapy,” Dr. Li said.

The study was published online in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Blurred boundary

Dr. Li called BDs and BPDs “difficult to diagnose and differentiate,” noting that the comorbidity rate is “very high.” Underestimating the boundary between BD and BPD “increases the risk of improper or harmful drug exposure,” since mood stabilizing drugs are “considered to be the key therapeutic intervention for BD, while psychotherapy is the key treatment for BPD.”

The “blurred boundary between BD and BPD is one of the reasons it is important to study the relationship between these two diseases,” the authors said.

Previous studies comparing the relationship between BD and BPD “did not explore the similarities and differences in brain mechanisms between these two disorders after treatment,” they pointed out.

Patients with BD have a different disease course and response to therapy, compared to patient with BPD patients. “Misdiagnosis may result in the patients receiving ineffective treatment, so it is particularly important to explore the neural mechanisms of the treatment of these two diseases,” Dr. Li said.

To investigate, the researchers used activation likelihood estimation (ALE) – a technique that examines coordinates of neuroimaging data gleaned from published studies – after searching several databases from inception until June 2021.

This approach was used to “evaluate the similarities and differences in the activation of different brain regions in patients with BD and BPD after treatment with psychotherapy and drug therapy.”

Studies were required to focus on patients with a clinical diagnosis of BD or BPD; neuroimaging studies using functional MRI; coordinates of the peak activations in the stereotactic space of the Montreal Neurologic Institute or Talairach; treatment (pharmacologic or psychological) for patients with BD or BPD; and results of changes in brain activation after treatment, relative to a before-treatment condition.

Of 1,592 records, 34 studies (n = 912 subjects) met inclusion criteria and were selected and used in extracting the activation coordinates. The researchers extracted a total of 186 activity increase points and 90 activity decrease points. After combining these calculations, they found 12 increased activation clusters and 2 decreased activation clusters.

Of the studies, 23 focused on BD and 11 on BPD; 14 used psychotherapy, 18 used drug therapy, and 2 used a combination of both approaches.


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