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UTSC Psychology prof researching better treatment option for borderline personality disorder

UTSC Assistant Professor Anthony Ruocco recently received a 2014 NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. (Photo by Ken Jones)

UTSC Assistant Professor Anthony Ruocco hopes a grant from a U.S.-based research foundation will help yield better treatment options for those with borderline personality disorder (BPD). 

Ruocco, whose research focuses primarily on the neurobiology of personality disorders, received a 2014 NARSAD Young Investigator Grant from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation to evaluate the effectiveness of a new brain stimulation technique called magnetic seizure therapy (MST) to treat suicidal thinking and behaviours in patients with BPD.

“Comparatively less research attention has been given to the potential underlying factors when it comes to BPD,” says Ruocco, who is the program coordinator in clinical psychology at UTSC. “My research will take a step back and look at the neurobiological factors underlying the disorder to better inform treatment options.”

He will work with Jeff Daskalakis, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at U of T and director of the Brain Stimulation Research and Treatment Program at CAMH, to determine which patients may benefit from receiving MST treatment. MST differs from electric shock therapy because it affects a smaller area of the brain and may have fewer cognitive side effects as a result.

Ruocco says they are studying BPD specifically because of the high rate of suicidal behaviour among patients with this diagnosis, but hopes the research has an impact on interventions for suicide risk in other mental disorders. 

“We hope to better understand how this therapy may have an impact on the thoughts and actions of patients with BPD, but it may also be an effective treatment option for suicidal behaviour in other mental disorders.”  

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