An international team of researchers has identified key networks within the brain which they say interact to increase the risk that an individual will think about or attempt suicide.
In fact, 800,000 people die globally by suicide every year, the equivalent of one every 40 seconds. As many as one in three adolescents think about ending their lives and one in three of these will attempt suicide.
Despite these frightening figures, experts knew very little about what's happening in the brain to increase the risk of suicide. However, the new study published in the Molecular Psychiatry journal sought to explain this matter.
The study carried out by researchers from the Universities of Yale and Cambridge looked at 131 studies, which covered more than 12,000 individuals, and combined the results from all of the brain imaging studies available.
They found that structural and functional alterations in two brain networks and the connections between them might increase an individual's suicide risk.
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.