Neuropathology of suicide: recent findings and future directions

Mol Psychiatry. 2017 Oct;22(10):1395-1412. doi: 10.1038/mp.2017.141. Epub 2017 Jul 11.


Suicide is a major public health concern and a leading cause of death in most societies. Suicidal behaviour is complex and heterogeneous, likely resulting from several causes. It associates with multiple factors, including psychopathology, personality traits, early-life adversity and stressful life events, among others. Over the past decades, studies in fields ranging from neuroanatomy, genetics and molecular psychiatry have led to a model whereby behavioural dysregulation, including suicidal behaviour (SB), develops as a function of biological adaptations in key brain systems. More recently, the unravelling of the unique epigenetic processes that occur in the brain has opened promising avenues in suicide research. The present review explores the various facets of the current knowledge on suicidality and discusses how the rapidly evolving field of neurobehavioural epigenetics may fuel our ability to understand, and potentially prevent, SB.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics
  • Epigenomics
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Nervous System Diseases
  • Neuropathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology