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Brain Abnormalities Linked To Suicidal Behavior In Neuroimaging Study

The study examined a total of 68 participants, all of which suffered from bipolar disorder.



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Suicide, a common outcome of bipolar disorder, is one of the leading causes of death for adolescents and young adults. The neurological cause of suicidal behavior has always remained mysterious, until now.

According to a new study, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, certain abnormalities in the brain was caught using neuroimaging — magnetic resonance imaging and diffusion tensor imaging — that could help explain suicidal behavior in patients with bipolar disorder.

The study examined a total of 68 participants, all of which suffered from bipolar disorder. The first group of participants, 26 in total, all had a history of at least one suicide attempt. Meanwhile, the second group, 42 in total, had no history of suicide attempts.

Researchers looked at and compared regional gray matter volume, white matter integrity, and functional connectivity during processing of emotional stimuli of both groups. Differences were discovered in the fronto-limbic neural system.

According to the results, the first group of 26 participants with a history of suicidal behavior were found to have less gray matter volumes in the right orbitofrontal cortex and hippocampus, and bilateral cerebellum.

Additionally, the first group of suicide attempters, also had “diminished integrity of white matter in the uncinate fasciculus, ventral frontal, and right cerebellum regions and decreased functional connectivity between the amygdala and left ventral prefrontal and right rostral prefrontal regions,” as Eric Dolan of PsyPost writes.

“The findings suggest that brain regions associated with the processing and regulating of emotional information were impaired among the participants who had attempted suicide.”

The study’s results highlight crucial differences in the brain of suicide attempters in adolescence and young adulthood. With these new findings, however, the next step forward would be to create new strategies for the identification of those who are at the highest risk of suicide, including sufferers of bipolar disorder, as Hilary Blumberg, M.D., one of the researchers, suggests.

Jose Florez is the founder and editor of Mental Daily. His work has appeared in Psychology Today, Glamour, HuffPost, among others. He is a mental health advocate, and currently studying psychology.

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