Study finds subtle brain differences in suicidal youth

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ENGIMA-STB aims to identify neurobiological variations associated with suicidal ideation and behavior, in order to leverage information from brain structure and function, as well as clinical and demographic factors, to predict the likelihood of a future suicide attempt. suicide. Credit: USC Stevens INI

Key points:

  • An interdisciplinary working group has brought together data from 21 international studies to better understand mood disorders and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
  • Researchers have found subtle alterations in the size of the frontal pole in young people with suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
  • The data could provide important targets for the next generation of more effective suicide prevention strategies.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the United States among young people aged 10 to 33. An interdisciplinary working group with the ENIGMA Consortium strives to advance understanding of the complex nature of suicidal thoughts and behaviors to ultimately develop better. Interventions and preventions.

Their new study, published in Molecular psychiatry, revealed subtle alterations in the size of the prefrontal region of the brain in young people with mood disorders and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The key to the study was to combine data from 21 international interdisciplinary studies.

Benefiting from this large dataset, the researchers performed analyzes on several subsamples. They started with data from a small group of young people with mood disorders for whom very detailed information about suicide was available. Then they looked at larger and more diverse samples in terms of the type of diagnosis and the instruments used to assess suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

According to the study results, the team detected subtle alterations in the size of the frontal pole – a prefrontal region – in the first sample of young people, suggesting that these associations may be absent or more difficult to identify in older samples. diversified.

“The structural brain differences we found were very subtle, which means that most people with a history of suicidal behaviors have brains that are not very different from people without a history of suicidal behaviors, which is reassuring,” said first author Laura van Velzen. , postdoctoral researcher at the University of Melbourne. “However, the subtle differences we found allow us to better understand the mechanisms involved in suicidal behaviors and may potentially provide important targets for the next generation of more effective suicide prevention strategies.”

Based on these results, the research team draws attention to the pressing need for further studies of this scope. Ongoing work by the same group will include further analysis, with the aim of including additional age groups and exploring other characteristics, such as brain connectivity.

Information courtesy of USC.

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