Abnormalities in Brain Connectivity, Structure in Suicidal Patients

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Suicidal teenagers and young adults with bipolar disorder have abnormalities in their prefrontal cortex, which controls mood, decision-making and impulse control, as well as other areas of the brain, according to study results presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting.

Differences in brain circuitry and a loss of white matter integrity were observed using MRI, Hilary P. Blumberg, MD, of Yale University, and colleagues reported. The researchers studied the brain structure and function of teens and young adults aged 14 to 25 years, 68 of whom had bipolar disorder. Of those with bipolar disorder, 26 had attempted suicide. The subjects were compared to age and sex-matched controls.

Patients that had attempted suicide showed less integrity of white matter in the frontal brain systems, including the uncinate fasciculus, which connects to the front lobe which controls emotion, motivation, and memory. A lack of structural connection was also associated with weak connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdale, as well as a correlation to suicide ideation, number of suicide attempts and the lethal nature of the attempts.

The researchers hope that the imaging findings can serve as an early biomarker to identify people at a higher risk of suicide and develop appropriate interventions. 

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Abnormalities in Brain Connectivity, Structure in Suicidal Patients

Adolescents with bipolar disorder who have attempted suicide have abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex and related brain areas, preliminary research indicates.

"We observed differences in brain circuitry in adolescents and young adults who have bipolar disorder and made suicide attempts," Hilary P. Blumberg, MD, director, Mood Disorders Research Program, Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut, told Medscape Medical News.

"These were especially in the frontal cortex and its connections. The frontal cortex is important in behaviors that may play a role in suicide behavior ― for example, in mood, decision-making, and in inhibiting impulses to take action," explained Dr Blumberg, professor of psychiatry and diagnostic radiology at the Yale School of Medicine.

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