Will new insights into neural networks help us improve our models of suicidal behavior?
Suicidal behavior is associated with structural changes in cortical areas of the brain. For instance, there is an intriguing study by Benedetti and colleagues (2011) who, in patients with past suicide attempts, found reduced gray matter volume in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, and the basal ganglia – and that lithium treatment reversed the loss of volume in these areas. Besides cortical abnormalities, white matter abnormalities have been reported (Mahon, Burdick, Wu, Ardekani, & Szeszko, 2012). van Heeringen argues that in order to understand the neural correlates of dysfunctional cognitive-emotional processing, we need to go beyond simple structural brain abnormalities, and focus on networks that connect frontal cortical areas, including the cingulate cortex and subcortical areas. The rationale is that connections and networks may provide the key to the understanding of the neural and psychological mechanisms involved in getting people to the point of killing themselves.