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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2011 Jun;50(6):602-611.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2011.03.018. Epub 2011 May 7.

Dissociable patterns of neural activity during response inhibition in depressed adolescents with and without suicidal behavior.

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University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.



Impaired attentional control and behavioral control are implicated in adult suicidal behavior. Little is known about the functional integrity of neural circuitry supporting these processes in suicidal behavior in adolescence.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used in 15 adolescent suicide attempters with a history of major depressive disorder (ATTs), 15 adolescents with a history of depressive disorder but no suicide attempt (NATs), and 14 healthy controls (HCs) during the performance of a well-validated go-no-go response inhibition and motor control task that measures attentional and behavioral control and has been shown to activate prefrontal, anterior cingulate, and parietal cortical circuitries. Questionnaires assessed symptoms and standardized interviews characterized suicide attempts.


A 3 group by 2 condition (go-no-go response inhibition versus go motor control blocks) block-design whole-brain analysis (p < .05, corrected) showed that NATs showed greater activity than ATTs in the right anterior cingulate gyrus (p = .008), and that NATs, but not ATTs, showed significantly greater activity than HCs in the left insula (p = .004) to go-no-go response inhibition blocks.


Although ATTs did not show differential patterns of neural activity from HCs during the go-no-go response inhibition blocks, ATTs and NATs showed differential activation of the right anterior cingulate gyrus during response inhibition. These findings indicate that suicide attempts during adolescence are not associated with abnormal activity in response inhibition neural circuitry. The differential patterns of activity in response inhibition neural circuitry in ATTs and NATs, however, suggest different neural mechanisms for suicide attempt versus major depressive disorder in general in adolescence that should be a focus of further study.

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