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World J Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Aug;12(5):319-39. doi: 10.3109/15622975.2011.556200. Epub 2011 Mar 8.

The suicidal mind and brain: a review of neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies.

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  • 1McGill Group for Suicide Studies, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Montreal, Québec, Canada. fabrice.jollant@mcgill.ca

Abstract

OBJECTIVES. We aimed at reviewing studies exploring dysfunctional cognitive processes, and their neuroanatomical basis, in suicidal behaviour, and to develop a neurocognitive working model. Methods. A literature search was conducted. RESULTS. Several limitations were found. The main reported neuropsychological findings are a higher attention to specific negative emotional stimuli, impaired decision-making, lower problem-solving abilities, reduced verbal fluency, and possible reduced non-specific attention and reversal learning in suicide attempters. Neuroimaging studies mainly showed the involvement of ventrolateral orbital, dorsomedial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, the anterior cingulate gyrus, and, to a lesser extent, the amygdala. In addition, alterations in white matter connections are suggested. CONCLUSIONS. These studies support the concept of alterations in suicidal behaviour distinct from those of comorbid disorders. We propose that a series of neurocognitive dysfunctions, some with trait-like characteristics, may facilitate the development of a suicidal crisis during stressful circumstances: (1) an altered modulation of value attribution, (2) an inadequate regulation of emotional and cognitive responses, and (3) a facilitation of acts in an emotional context. This preliminary model may represent a framework for the design of future studies on the pathophysiology, prediction and prevention of these complex human behaviours.

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