Are brain structural differences associated with suicidal thoughts in young adults?

A new study by a global team of researchers including Neda Jahanshad, PhD, of USC’s Mark’s Keck School of Medicine and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute (Stevens INI), has revealed small changes in size size of the prefrontal cortex in children with mood disorders and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The study was recently published in


“Together with my colleagues at Stevens INI, an international team of neuroscientists, psychologists and psychiatrists have come together to form the ENIGMA Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors (ENIGMA-STB) working group. , part of the National Institutes of Mental Health, funded by the ENIGMA Consortium, to compile the amount of data this type of research needs. Comparison of data on disorders, with a focus on adolescents.

“Benefiting the large data set we have available, we can perform the analysis in many sub-examples,” says Laura van Velzen, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at Thanh Hoa Center for Mental Health years, the University of Melbourne and the study’s first author.


“We started with data from a smaller group of young people with mood disorders who had very detailed information about suicide. Next, we were able to look at larger and more diverse samples of type. diagnostics and tools used to assess suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Our results reveal subtle changes in the size of the frontal pole, the prefrontal region, in this early sample of young humans, and suggest that these associations may be absent or more difficult to identify in other samples. more diverse samples. Besides revealing subtle changes in prefrontal brain structure associated with suicidal behavior in young adults, our study demonstrates the power of combining data from 21 international studies and the need to requires careful data harmonization between studies. ”

Van Velzen added: “The differences in brain structure we found were very subtle, meaning that most people with a history of suicidal behavior had brains that weren’t very different from those without. history of suicidal behavior,” added van Velzen. “However, the subtle differences we found help us better understand the mechanisms involved in suicidal behavior and may ultimately provide important targets for the next generation of more effective suicide prevention strategies.”

Armed with these results, the team is calling attention to the urgent need for more studies of this scope. Ongoing work by the same team will include extensive analysis, with the goal of including additional age groups and exploring other features, such as brain connectivity.

“The study provides evidence to support a hopeful future in which we will find new and improved ways to reduce the risk of suicide. It is particularly hoped that scientists, such as Our co-authors on this paper, together will make a larger collaborative effort. Keep the great promise,” said Lianne Schmaal, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Melbourne, co-author of the study. .

In addition to her research work for the ENIGMA consortium at Stevens INI, Jahanshad also takes a social approach to her work on mental illness. She serves as a faculty sponsor for Trojan Support, a peer-to-peer organization that gives students the opportunity to connect with trained fellow Trojans for support and thoughtful conversations that promote wellness. mentally and emotionally. Jahanshad mentored President of Trojan Support and Founder Armand Amini, while he studied brain mapping to better understand suicide risk factors at Stevens INI. Amini decided to start the organization after realizing the need for a peer group for those who were uncomfortable seeking professional help.

“This study demonstrates the power of researchers like Dr Jahanshad and her colleagues, who seek to unite with experts globally to better understand and accumulate valuable data. told,” said INI Director, Arthur W. Toga, PhD.

“The goal of the ENIGMA Consortium is to bring together researchers from around the world so that we can combine existing data samples and really improve our brain’s ability to test for mental illnesses. In addition, the collaborative efforts of faculty and alumni like Armand Amini demonstrate our commitment to putting our research into practical application to the benefit of our students. benefit the USC community and beyond.”

Source: Eurekalert

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