Objective: A critical need exists to identify objective markers of suicide ideation. One potential suicide risk marker is the Suicide Implicit Association Task (S-IAT), a behavioral task that uses differential reaction times to compare the implicit association between the self and death to the implicit association between the self and life. Individuals with a stronger association between the self and death on the S-IAT are more likely to attempt suicide in the future. To better understand the neural underpinnings of the implicit association between self and either life or death, a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) version of the S-IAT was adapted and piloted in healthy volunteers.
Method: An fMRI version of the S-IAT was administered to 28 healthy volunteers (ages 18-65, 14F/14M).
Results: Behavioral results were comparable to those seen in non-scanner versions of the task. The task was associated with patterns of neural activation in areas relevant to emotional processing, specifically the insula and right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.
Conclusions: Performance on the S-IAT fMRI task may reflect scores obtained outside of the scanner. In future evaluations, this task could help assess whether individuals at increased risk of suicide display a different pattern of neural activation in response to self/death and self/life stimuli.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00088699.
© 2019 The American Association of Suicidology.