MRI correlates of suicide attempt history in unipolar depression

Eileen P. Ahearn, Kay R. Jamison, David C. Steffens, Frederick Cassidy, James M. Provenzale, Ann Lehman, Richard H. Weisler, Bernard J. Carroll, K. Ranga Rama Krishnan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Background: Suicide represents a major health problem in the United States, and prediction of suicide attempts is difficult. No structural neuroimaging studies have been done to specifically examine findings in patients who have attempted suicide. The objective of this study was to compare MRI findings in unipolar patients with and without a history of a suicide attempt. Methods: In this post hoc analysis, 20 unipolar subjects with a history of a suicide attempt were matched by age and gender to unipolar subjects without a history of an attempt. Subjects were also matched on parameters such as cardiovascular history, electroconvulsive treatment history, and history of psychosis. Subjects with a history of any neurologic condition were excluded. There were no significant differences in age of onset of depression, number of episodes of depression, and Hamilton Depression scores between the two groups. T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were rated using the Coffey and Boyko rating scales. Results: Unipolar patients with a history of a suicide attempt demonstrated significantly more subcortical gray matter hyperintensities compared with patients without such a history. Conclusions: Patients with abnormal MRI findings may be at higher risk for mood disorders and suicide attempts because of disruption of critical neuroanatomic pathways. Gray matter hyperintensities in the basal ganglia may be especially associated with risk for suicide attempts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)266-270
Number of pages5
JournalBiological psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 2001


  • MRI findings
  • Suicide attempt
  • Unipolar depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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