Worldwide, 900,000 die by suicide every year and it is the second leading cause of death among those aged 13 to 30.
Now experts say, based on two decades of research, that two key brain networks have been identified which increase the risk a person will think about and attempt suicide. Study co-first author Dr. Anne-Laura van Harmelen, of Cambridge University, said: ‘Imagine having a disease that killed almost a million people a year, a quarter of them before the age of 30, and yet we knew nothing about why some individuals are more vulnerable to this disease.
‘This is where we are with suicide. We know very little about what’s happening in the brain.’ The team examined 231 studies, involving more than 13,000 participants, looking at alterations in brain structure and function.
Researchers identified two brain networks that appear useful. The first involves frontal brain areas known as the medial and lateral ventral prefrontal cortex, which helps regulate emotion adjustment in that network may lead to excessive negative thoughts.
The second network – the dorsal prefrontal cortex and inferior frontal gyrus system – is active in decision making and controlling behavior. An adjustment may influence the chances of a suicide attempt.
Changes in both networks can lead people to think negatively, ‘blunt’ positive thoughts, and become more prone to suicide. Professor Hilary Blumberg, of Yale School of Medicine in the US, said:
‘The review provides evidence to support a very hopeful future in which we will find new and improved ways to reduce the risk of suicide.’
Dr. Lianne Schmaal Study co-first author, from the University of Melbourne in Australia, added: ‘If we can work out a way to identify those young people at greatest risk, we will have an opportunity to step in and help them.’
The study’s findings were published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Read Here