Functional alterations of the suicidal brain: a coordinate-based meta-analysis of functional imaging studies

Brain Imaging Behav. 2022 Feb;16(1):291-304. doi: 10.1007/s11682-021-00503-x. Epub 2021 Aug 5.


Altered brain activities in suicidal subjects have been reported in a number of neuroimaging studies. However, the activity aberrances were inconsistent in previous investigations. Thus, we aimed to address activity abnormalities in suicidal individuals. Databases were searched to perform a meta-analysis of whole-brain functional MRI studies of suicidal individuals through January 14, 2020. Meta-analyses were conducted using Seed-based d Mapping software. Based on a meta-analysis of 17 studies comprising 381 suicidal individuals and 642 controls, we mainly found that increased activity in the bilateral superior temporal gyrus, left middle temporal gyrus, and bilateral middle occipital gyrus, along with decreased activity in the right putamen and left insula, were detected in suicidal individuals compared with nonsuicidal subjects. To reduce methodological heterogeneity between the included studies, subanalyses of behavioral domains were conducted, and the right superior temporal gyrus was found to increase in all subanalyses of domains. In subanalyses of suicidal attempters and ideators, suicide attempters displayed hyperactivation in the bilateral superior temporal gyrus and left middle temporal gyrus and blunted responses in the left insula relative to controls. Suicidal ideators demonstrated elevated activation in the right middle occipital gyrus and reduced activity in the right putamen relative to controls. The bilateral superior temporal gyrus was the most robust finding, replicable in all data sets in the jackknife sensitive analysis. Moreover, increased activity in the right superior temporal gyrus, left middle temporal gyrus, and right middle occipital gyrus was found to be involved with higher suicide ideation scores. This study revealed several brain regions associated with suicidality. These findings may contribute to our understanding of the pathophysiology of suicide and have important implications for suicide prevention and interventions.

Keywords: Functional MRI; Meta-analysis; Suicidal attempters; Suicidal ideators; Suicide.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Neuroimaging
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Temporal Lobe / diagnostic imaging