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Baldwin Way, PhD

Award Name KL2


Acetaminophen for Borderline Personality Disorder

Baldwin Way, PhD received a KL2 grant from the Center for Clinical and Translational Science for his research, “Translating Social Psychological Theories into Pharmacological Therapies for Psychiatric Disorders: A Randomized Control Trial of Acetaminophen for Borderline Personality Disorder as a Model.”

Positive social relationships affect an individual’s health more than many people realize. Studies suggest that having poor relationships may even be a bigger risk factor for mortality than cigarette smoking. Our knowledge on this topic continues to grow through research on social rejection, which has found that social rejection and physical pain activate the same areas of the brain and Tylenol reportedly lowers this pain response for both physical and social pain.

Way applied these findings to a population that is highly effected by social rejection: Borderline Personality Disorder patients. Since mood swings, aggressive behavior, fears of abandonment and high rejection sensitivity are characteristic of BPD, Acetaminophen (Tylenol) could potentially lower aggression and pain from social rejection to provide a drug therapy for these individuals.

To test this, BPD patients would receive either Tylenol or a placebo (fake pill) and then social rejection would be induced through “cyber ball,” a video simulation in which participants would begin playing catch and then ultimately be left out of the game. Once participants experienced this social rejection, experimenters would measure their levels of aggression by asking participants to compete against another (fictional) individual to press a button the quickest; the individual who reached the button first would expose his opponent to a loud noise, then the aggressive behavioral response can be observed.

In addition to approved psychotherapies for BPD, Tylenol could further assist in the treatment of symptoms, providing a low cost and personalized drug therapy. CCTS funding helped with participant recruitment, collaboration with psychologists, and drug and placebo costs.

By Rachel Fenton, Wednesday, July 25, 2012

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