Published on Wed Sep 29 2021

Structural brain alterations associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors in young people: results across 21 international studies from the ENIGMA Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviours consortium

van Velzen, L. S., Dauvermann, M. R., Colic, L., Villa, L. M., Savage, H. S., Toenders, Y. J., Zhu, A. H., Bright, J. K., Campos, A. I., Salminen, L., Ambrogi, S., Ayesa Arriola, R., Banaj, N., Basgoze, Z., Bauer, J., Blair, K., Blair, R. J., Brosch, K., Cheng, Y., Colle, R., Connolly, C. G., Corruble, E., Couvy Duchesne, B., Crespo Facorro, B., Cullen, K. R., Dannlowski, U., Davey, C. G., Dohm, K., Fullerton, J. M., Gonul, A. S., Gotlib, I. H., Grotegerd, D., Hahn, T., Harrison, B. J., He, M., Hickie, I. B., Ho, T. C., Iorfino, F., Jansen, A., Jollant, F., Kircher, T., Klimes Dougan, B., Klug

Identifying brain differences associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) in young people is critical to understanding their development. ENIGMA Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviours analyzed neuroimaging data harmonized across sites to examine brain morphology associated with STBs in youth.

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Abstract

Objective Identifying brain differences associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) in young people is critical to understanding their development and generating effective approaches to early intervention and prevention. The ENIGMA Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviours (ENIGMA-STB) consortium analyzed neuroimaging data harmonized across sites to examine brain morphology associated with STBs in youth. Methods First, we examined associations among regional brain structure and STBs, which were assessed in six samples of youth with mood disorders, using the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS; N=577). Second, we combined this sample with a larger sample (total 21 sites) in which STBs were assessed using various instruments. MRI metrics were compared among healthy controls without STBs (HC; N=688), clinical controls without STBs (CC; N=648), and young people with psychiatric diagnoses and current suicidal ideation (N=406). In separate analyses, MRI metrics were compared among HCs (N=335), CCs (N=768), and suicide attempters (N=254). Results In the homogeneous C-SSRS sample, surface area of the frontal pole was lower in young people with mood disorders and history of actual suicide attempts (N=163) than those without (N=394; FDR-p<.001; Cohens d=.334). When expanding to more clinically heterogeneous samples, we also found lower surface area of the frontal pole in those with a history of suicide attempts (Cohens d=.22). Conclusions Lower frontal pole surface area may represent a vulnerability for a suicide attempt; however, more research is needed to understand the nature of its relationship to suicide risk.