Source-based morphometry reveals gray matter differences related to suicidal behavior in criminal offenders

Brain Imaging Behav. 2020 Feb;14(1):1-9. doi: 10.1007/s11682-018-9957-2.


Relative to the general population, criminal offenders have a higher risk of suicide. Neurobiological deficits related to suicidal behavior have been identified in the general population, but unexamined in offenders to date. We examined the association between brain morphology and suicidal behavior in adult male criminal offenders. Brain morphology was examined using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and source-based morphometry (SBM), a multivariate alternative to VBM which analyzes brain volume in between-subject spatially independent networks. Results showed that offenders with past suicide attempts (n = 19), relative to offenders without past suicide attempts (n = 19) and non-offenders (n = 26), had reduced gray matter in an SBM component that comprised the posterior cingulate, dorsal prefrontal cortex, and amygdala. The SBM source weights were significantly associated with suicide attempts independent of other suicide risk variables (e.g., depression). VBM results were similar to the SBM results but less robust. The results reveal a potential neurobiological marker of vulnerability to suicidal behavior among criminal offenders and illustrate the utility of multivariate methods of gray matter analyses.

Keywords: Criminal; Gray matter; Neuroimaging; Posterior cingulate; Suicide.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Criminals / psychology*
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gray Matter / pathology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted