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.