Sunday December 8, 2019

Researchers Identify Key Networks In Brain That Play Role In Suicide

Brain networks that play key role in suicide risk identified

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Brain network
Scientists have identified the brain networks that play a role in suicide. Lifetime Stock

Researchers have identified key networks within the brain which they say interact to increase the risk that an individual will think about – or attempt – suicide.

Combining the results from all of the brain imaging studies available, the researchers looked for evidence of structural, functional and molecular alterations in the brain that could increase the risk of suicide.

They identified two brain networks – and the connections between them – that appear to play an important role.

The first of these networks involves areas towards the front of the brain known as the medial and lateral ventral prefrontal cortex and their connections to other brain regions involved in emotion.

Alterations in this network may lead to excessive negative thoughts and difficulties regulating emotions, stimulating thoughts of suicide, according to the study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

The second network involves regions known as the dorsal prefrontal cortex and inferior frontal gyrus system.

Brain studies
The researchers looked for evidence of structural, functional and molecular alterations in the brain that could increase the risk of suicide. Lifetime Stock

Alterations in this network may influence a suicide attempt, in part, due to its role in decision making, generating alternative solutions to problems and controlling behaviour, said the study.

The researchers suggest that if both networks are altered in terms of their structure, function or biochemistry, this might lead to situations where an individual thinks negatively about the future and is unable to control their thoughts, which might lead to situations where an individual is at higher risk of suicide.

“There are very vulnerable groups who are clearly not being served by research for a number of reasons, including the need to prioritise treatment, and reduce stigma,” said Anne-Laura van Harmelen, co-first author from the University of Cambridge.

“We urgently need to study these groups and find ways to help and support them,” van Harmelen said.

For the study, the international team of researchers carried out a review of two decades’ worth of scientific literature relating to brain imaging studies of suicidal thoughts and behaviour.

In total, they looked at 131 studies, which covered more than 12,000 individuals, looking at alterations in brain structure and function that might increase an individual’s suicide risk.

Brain suicide
Alterations in the brain network may influence a suicide attempt. Lifetime Stock

The researchers said that their review of existing literature revealed how little research has been done into one of the world’s major killers, particularly among the most vulnerable groups.

The facts in relation to suicide are stark: 800,000 people commit suicide every year, the equivalent of one every 40 seconds.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death globally among 15-29 year olds.

More adolescents commit suicide than dying from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined.

As many as one in three adolescents think about ending their lives and one in three of these will attempt suicide.

“Imagine having a disease that we knew killed almost a million people a year, a quarter of them before the age of thirty, and yet we knew nothing about why some individuals are more vulnerable to this disease,” van Harmelen said.

Also Read- Long-Term Treatment with Opioids may Increase PTSD Risk: Study

“This is where we are with suicide. We know very little about what’s happening in the brain, why there are sex differences, and what makes young people especially vulnerable to suicide.” (IANS)

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Women Taking Oral Contraceptives have Smaller Brain Region: Study

Brain region smaller in birth control pill users

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Brain contraceptives
Researches found a smaller hypothalamus volume in women consuming oral contraceptives. Pixabay

Researchers have found that women taking oral contraceptives, commonly known as birth control pills, had significantly smaller hypothalamus volume, compared to women not taking the pill.

Located at the base of the brain above the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus produces hormones and helps regulate essential bodily functions including body temperature, mood, appetite, sex drive, sleep cycles and heart rate.

Structural effects of sex hormones, including oral contraceptive pills, on the human hypothalamus have never been reported, according to the researchers.

This may be in part because validated methods to quantitatively analyse MRI exams of the hypothalamus have not been available.

“There is a lack of research on the effects of oral contraceptives on this small but essential part of the living human brain,” said Michael L. Lipton, professor of radiology at the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in US.

Contraceptives
Structural effects of sex hormones, including oral contraceptives, on the human hypothalamus have never been reported. Pixabay

“We validated methods for assessing the volume of the hypothalamus and confirm, for the first time, that current oral contraceptive pill usage is associated with smaller hypothalamic volume,” Lipton said.

Oral contraceptives are among the most popular forms of birth control and are also used to treat a host of conditions, including irregular menstruation, cramps, acne, endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome.

According to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, from 2015 to 2017 approximately 47 million women aged 15-49 in the US reported current use of contraceptives. Of those, 12.6 per cent used the pill.

For the this study, the researchers recruited a group of 50 healthy women, including 21 women who were taking oral contraceptives.

All 50 women underwent brain MRI, and a validated approach was used to measure hypothalamic volume.

“We found a dramatic difference in the size of the brain structures between women who were taking oral contraceptives and those who were not,” Lipton said.

Also Read- Depression in Parents Responsible for Brain Differences of Kids

“This initial study shows a strong association and should motivate further investigation into the effects of oral contraceptives on brain structure and their potential impact on brain function,” Lipton added.

The study was presented at the 105th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America-RSNA 2019. (IANS)