Study links abnormalities in the frontal areas of the brain with
risk for suicide attempts in youths with mood disorders like bipolar disorder
and major depressive disorder.
Hilary Blumberg and colleagues at the Yale School of
Medicine examined brain structure and function in adolescents and young adults,
14-25 years of age, with the help of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Researchers found that compared with bipolar patients who did not attempt
suicide and healthy control subjects, the participants who attempted suicide
showed less integrity of white matter in key frontal brain systems, including
the uncinate fasciculus, a fiber tract that connects the frontal lobe with key
brain areas that control emotion, motivation, and memory. The deficits in the
structural connections were linked to weaker connections between the prefrontal
cortex and amygdala, suggesting that the white matter abnormalities disrupt the
ability of these system components to work together.
The study presents an important step in understanding the
neurobiology of how suicidal thoughts and behaviors are generated and may
facilitate earlier identification of individuals at risk and development of
targeted interventions to stop suicide.