By: Jessica George, Class of 2024
Figure 1: Global frontal brain activity may be a biomarker for non-planned or impulsive suicide attempts
Suicide is a serious public health concern and one of the leading causes of death worldwide. One of the major challenges in preventing suicide is the frequent non-planned or impulsive nature of suicidal behavior, leaving little opportunity for intervention. Therefore, it is essential to understand the underlying factors that contribute to impulsive suicidal behavior and develop effective strategies for suicide prevention. Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University aimed to investigate the relationship between global frontal brain activity and non-planned or impulsive suicide attempts.
The study was comprised of 35 participants who underwent a semi-structured interview 72 hours after a suicide attempt. The duration of the suicidal process, including contemplation and action intervals, was recorded through the interview. A 5-minute portable EEG recording was used to calculate average frequency values of delta, theta, alpha, and beta brain waves. Spearman correlations were used to compare the association between duration of suicidal process and frontal brain activity.
The results of the study indicate that individuals with a history of non-planned or impulsive suicide attempts exhibit significantly lower global frontal brain activity, in the form of lower delta and theta activity, compared to those with a history of planned suicide attempts and the healthy controls. This finding suggests that low global frontal brain activity may be associated with an increased risk for non-planned or impulsive suicide attempts. The findings suggest that targeting interventions that increase frontal brain activity may be a potential approach for reducing the risk of non-planned or impulsive suicide attempts.
The study has some limitations, including the relatively small sample size and the use of a working memory task to measure global frontal brain activity. Additionally, the study did not assess other potential risk factors for suicide, such as depression or impulsivity, which may have influenced the results. Finally, it should be noted that the semi-structured interview method utilized to establish periods of contemplation and action has not undergone validation previously.
Despite these limitations, the study provides important insights into the neural correlates of suicidal behavior. The findings suggest that low global frontal brain activity may be a biomarker for non-planned or impulsive suicide attempts, which may have implications for the development of new prevention and intervention strategies. However, further research is needed to confirm and expand upon these findings.
- R. Cáceda, et al., Low global frontal brain activity is associated with non-planned or impulsive suicide attempts. A preliminary study. J Affect Disord 326, 44-48 (2023). doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2023.01.084
- Image retrieved from: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1639768