Cognitive inhibition in individuals with borderline personality trait can be improved with emotional working memory training (EWMT), according to study findings published in Journal of Affective Disorders.
Researchers conducted a randomized parallel-group controlled trial that included 40 individuals with borderline personality trait selected from the Mohaghegh Ardabili University in Iran. Participants were randomly assigned to the intervention (N=20) or waiting-list control (N=20) group based on their Borderline Personality Scale score, which measured hopelessness, impulsivity, and dissociation, and their follow-up structured clinical interview for DSM-IV Personality Disorders, which evaluated for 10 Axis-II personality disorders.
Researchers included only those individuals with clinically significant borderline personality traits in the study. Ultimately, 2 participants from the control group and 1 from the experimental group withdrew, leaving 37 individuals (mean age 24.88±4.31 years; 17 women) in the final analysis.
The experimental group received EWMT during the course of 10 sessions, and no intervention was provided to the control group. Before and after intervention, all participants completed the Stroop Color and Word Test (SCWT) to measure interference inhibition and Go/No-Go task to measure response inhibition and control. No significant between-group differences in outcome measures at the preintervention time were observed.
Reaction time of incongruent trials in the SCWT and commission errors in the Go/No-Go task after the intervention were found to be significantly reduced in only the experimental group. The researchers noted the intervention had significantly lower interference scores in SCWT and commission error rates at postintervention compared with the control group.
Limitations of the study include a lack of clinical BPD diagnosis for participants, a lack of double-blind design, no measurement of training improvement during EWMT intervention, and a lack of follow-up.
Study authors conclude, “EWMT improves cognitive inhibition in individuals with a clinically significant borderline personality trait and might then be a potential therapeutic intervention in BPD which usually needed symptom-driven intervention.” They add the improvement in cognitive inhibition resulted from “improving control over committing less commission error(s) and responding faster to incongruent trials (ie, the ability not to respond to conflicting stimuli) which are impaired in individuals with impulsive behavior.”
Basharpoor S, Zakibakhsh Mohammadi N, Heidari F, Azarkolah A, Vicario CM, Salehinejad MA. Emotional working memory training improves cognitive inhibitory abilities in individuals with borderline personality trait: a randomized parallel-group trial. J Affect Disord. Published online September 22, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2022.09.089