Perception of social inclusion/exclusion and response inhibition in adolescents with past suicide attempt: a multidomain task-based fMRI study

Mol Psychiatry. 2024 Feb 29. doi: 10.1038/s41380-024-02485-w. Online ahead of print.


The occurrence of suicidal behaviors increases during adolescence. Hypersensitivity to negative social signals and deficits in cognitive control are putative mechanisms of suicidal behaviors, which necessitate confirmation in youths. Multidomain functional neuroimaging could enhance the identification of patients at suicidal risk beyond standard clinical measures. Three groups of adolescents (N = 96; 78% females, age = 11.6-18.1) were included: patients with depressive disorders and previous suicide attempts (SA, n = 29); patient controls with depressive disorders but without any suicide attempt history (PC, n = 35); and healthy controls (HC, n = 32). We scanned participants with 3T-MRI during social inclusion/exclusion (Cyberball Game) and response inhibition (Go-NoGo) tasks. Neural activation was indexed by the blood-oxygenation-level dependent (BOLD) of the hemodynamic response during three conditions in the Cyberball Game ("Control condition", "Social Inclusion", and "Social Exclusion"), and two conditions in Go-NoGo task ("Go" and "NoGo" blocks). ANCOVA-style analysis identified group effects across three whole-brain contrasts: 1) NoGo vs. Go, 2) Social inclusion vs. control condition, 3) Social exclusion vs. control condition. We found that SA had lower activation in the left insula during social inclusion vs. control condition compared to PC and HC. Moreover, SA compared to PC had higher activity in the right middle prefrontal gyrus during social exclusion vs. control condition, and in bilateral precentral gyri during NoGo vs. Go conditions. Task-related behavioral and self-report measures (Self-reported emotional reactivity in the Cyberball Game, response times and number of errors in the Go-NoGo Task) did not discriminate groups. In conclusion, adolescent suicidal behaviors are likely associated with neural alterations related to the processing of social perception and response inhibition. Further research, involving prospective designs and diverse cohorts of patients, is necessary to explore the potential of neuroimaging as a tool in understanding the emergence and progression of suicidal behaviors.