Alternation in functional connectivity within default mode network after psychodynamic psychotherapy in borderline personality disorder

Saba Amiri, Fatemeh Sadat Mirfazeli, Jordan Grafman, Homa Mohammadsadeghi*, Mehrdad Eftekhar, Nazila Karimzad, Maryam Mohebbi, Shabnam Nohesara*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by impairments in emotion regulation, impulse control, and interpersonal and social functioning along with a deficit in emotional awareness and empathy. In this study, we investigated whether functional connectivity (FC) within the default mode network (DMN) is affected by 1-year psychodynamic psychotherapy in patients with BPD. Methods: Nine BPD patients filled out the demography, Interpersonal Reactive Index (IRI), Toronto Alexithymia Scale 20 (TAS 20), the Alcohol, Smoking, and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST), and the Borderline Evaluation Severity over Time (BEST) questionnaire. The BPD group (9F) and the control group (9F) had a mean ± SD age of 28.2 ± 5.3 years and 30.4 ± 6.1 years, respectively. BPD subjects underwent longitudinal resting-state fMRI before psychodynamic psychotherapy and then every 4 months for a year after initiating psychotherapy. FC in DMN was characterized by calculating the nodal degree, a measure of centrality in the graph theory. Results: The results indicated that patients with BPD present with aberrant DMN connectivity compared to healthy controls. Over a year of psychotherapy, the patients with BPD showed both FC changes (decreasing nodal degree in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and increasing in other cingulate cortex regions) and behavioral improvement in their symptoms and substance use. There was also a significant positive association between the decreased nodal degree in regions of the dorsal cingulate cortex and a decrease in the score of the TAS-20 indicating difficulty in identifying feelings after psychotherapy. Conclusion: In BPD, there is altered FC within the DMN and disruption in self-processing and emotion regulation. Psychotherapy may modify the DMN connectivity and that modification is associated with positive changes in BPD emotional symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
JournalAnnals of General Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Connectivity
  • Default mode network
  • Resting-state fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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