Scientists have discovered the main differences in the brains of suicidal youth

The ENIGMA Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors Working Group aims to identify neurobiological variations associated with suicidal ideation and behavior to ultimately use information from brain structure and function, as well as clinical and demographic factors, to predict the likelihood of future suicidal attempts. Author: USC Stevens INI

A new study has revealed subtle structural changes in the brain in young people with suicidal behavior.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young adults ages 10 to 33 in the United States. Unfortunately, despite local, national and global prevention efforts, the number of suicide attempts among children and adolescents continues to rise. Collaborative research involving professionals from around the world is needed to advance our knowledge of the complex nature of suicidal thoughts and actions, and ultimately to create better interventions and prevention measures.

A recent study by an international team of scientists, including Neda Jahanshad, Ph.D., of the Mark and Mary Stevens Institute for Neuroimaging and Informatics (Stevens INI) at the Keck School of Medicine University of Southern California, showed that young adults with mood disorders and suicidal ideation and behavior showed minor changes in the size of the prefrontal brain region. Their results were recently published in a journal Molecular psychiatry.

“Together with my colleagues at Stevens INI, an international group of neurologists, psychologists, and psychiatrists has come together as part of the ENIGMA Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors Working Group (ENIGMA-STB), which is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and is part of the ENIGMA consortium. , to combine the amount of data required for this type of study. Suicidal behavior occurs in many mental disorders, so rather than focusing on a single disorder in small samples, we brought together researchers with data on suicidal behavior in young adults and coordinated a large-scale team science initiative to compare data across disorders. , with an emphasis on the youth,” Jahanshad said.

“Using the large data set we had available, we were able to analyze several subsamples,” detailed Laura van Welzen, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Youth Mental Health. University of Melbourne and first author of the study. “We started with data from a smaller group of young people with mood disorders for whom very detailed suicide information was available. We were then able to examine large and diverse samples in terms of type of diagnosis and instruments used to assess suicidal ideation and behavior. Our results show subtle changes in the size of the frontal pole, a prefrontal region, in this first sample of young adults, and suggest that these associations may be absent or more difficult to detect in more diverse samples. In addition to identifying subtle changes in prefrontal brain structure associated with suicidal behavior in young adults, our study demonstrates the power of pooling data from 21 international studies and the need for careful harmonization of data across studies.”

“The structural brain differences we found were very subtle, which means that the brains of most people with a history of suicidal behavior are not very different from the brains of people without a history of suicidal behavior, which is encouraging,” van Velzen added. “However, the subtle differences we found give us a better understanding of the mechanisms behind suicidal behavior and may ultimately be important targets for the next generation of more effective suicide prevention strategies.”

With these results, the research team draws attention to the urgent need for additional studies of this scope. Ongoing work by the same group will include extended analysis to include additional age groups and examine other features such as brain connectivity.

“The study provides evidence to support a very hopeful future in which we will find new and improved ways to reduce the risk of suicide. We especially hope that scientists like our co-authors of this paper are coming together in a larger collaborative effort that has tremendous promise,” said Liane Schmal, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Melbourne and co-author of the study.

In addition to research work for the ENIGMA consortium at Stevens INI, Jahanshad also takes a social approach to his work on mental illness. She is the faculty sponsor of Trojan Support, a peer-to-peer organization that provides students with opportunities to connect with trained fellow Trojans for support and thoughtful conversation to promote mental and emotional health. Jahanshad mentored Trojan Support president and founder Armand Amini, researching brain maps to better understand suicide risk factors at Stevens INI. Amini decided to start the organization after recognizing the need for a peer group for those who feel uncomfortable seeking professional help.

“This study shows the power of researchers like Dr. Jahanshad and her colleagues who are committed to teaming up with experts around the world to better understand and collect significant amounts of data,” said INI Director Arthur W. Togo, Ph.D. “The goal of the ENIGMA consortium is to bring together researchers from around the world so that we can pool existing data samples and really improve our ability to study the brain in these potentially devastating mental illnesses. In addition, the collaborative efforts of our faculty and former students, such as Armand Amini, demonstrate our commitment to the practical use of our research for good[{” attribute=””>USC community and beyond.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or a crisis, please reach out immediately to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.

Reference: “Structural brain alterations associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors in young people: results from 21 international studies from the ENIGMA Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviours consortium” by Laura S. van Velzen, Maria R. Dauvermann, Lejla Colic, Luca M. Villa, Hannah S. Savage, Yara J. Toenders, Alyssa H. Zhu, Joanna K. Bright, Adrián I. Campos, Lauren E. Salminen, Sonia Ambrogi, Rosa Ayesa-Arriola, Nerisa Banaj, Zeynep Başgöze, Jochen Bauer, Karina Blair, Robert James Blair, Katharina Brosch, Yuqi Cheng, Romain Colle, Colm G. Connolly, Emmanuelle Corruble, Baptiste Couvy-Duchesne, Benedicto Crespo-Facorro, Kathryn R. Cullen, Udo Dannlowski, Christopher G. Davey, Katharina Dohm, Janice M. Fullerton, Ali Saffet Gonul, Ian H. Gotlib, Dominik Grotegerd, Tim Hahn, Ben J. Harrison, Mengxin He, Ian B. Hickie, Tiffany C. Ho, Frank Iorfino, Andreas Jansen, Fabrice Jollant, Tilo Kircher, Bonnie Klimes-Dougan, Melissa Klug, Elisabeth J. Leehr, Elizabeth T. C. Lippard, Katie A. McLaughlin, Susanne Meinert, Adam Bryant Miller, Philip B. Mitchell, Benson Mwangi, Igor Nenadić, Amar Ojha, Bronwyn J. Overs, Julia-Katharina Pfarr, Fabrizio Piras, Kai G. Ringwald, Gloria Roberts, Georg Romer, Marsal Sanches, Margaret A. Sheridan, Jair C. Soares, Gianfranco Spalletta, Frederike Stein, Giana I. Teresi, Diana Tordesillas-Gutiérrez, Aslihan Uyar-Demir, Nic J. A. van der Wee, Steven J. van der Werff, Robert R. J. M. Vermeiren, Alexandra Winter, Mon-Ju Wu, Tony T. Yang, Paul M. Thompson, Miguel E. Rentería, Neda Jahanshad, Hilary P. Blumberg, Anne-Laura van Harmelen, ENIGMA Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviours Consortium, and Lianne Schmaal, 7 September 2022, Molecular Psychiatry.
DOI: 10.1038/s41380-022-01734-0

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and an MQ Brighter Futures Award MQBFC/2. Scientists have discovered the main differences in the brains of suicidal youth

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