The molecular bases of the suicidal brain

Journal name:
Nature Reviews Neuroscience
Year published:
Published online


Suicide ranks among the leading causes of death around the world and takes a heavy emotional and public health toll on most societies. Both distal and proximal factors contribute to suicidal behaviour. Distal factors — such as familial and genetic predisposition, as well as early-life adversity — increase the lifetime risk of suicide. They alter responses to stress and other processes through epigenetic modification of genes and associated changes in gene expression, and through the regulation of emotional and behavioural traits. Proximal factors are associated with the precipitation of a suicidal event and include alterations in key neurotransmitter systems, inflammatory changes and glial dysfunction in the brain. This Review explores the key molecular changes that are associated with suicidality and discusses some promising avenues for future research.


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  1. McGill Group for Suicide Studies, McGill University, Montreal H4H 1R3, Canada.

    • Gustavo Turecki

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  • Gustavo Turecki

    Gustavo Turecki is a professor of psychiatry at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, where he directs the McGill Group for Suicide Studies and the Depressive Disorders Program. He received his M.D. from UNIFESP (Universidade Federal de São Paulo), Brazil, where he also completed his psychiatry residency, and he obtained his Ph.D. from McGill University. His research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of depression and suicide. Gustavo Turecki's laboratory website.

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    Genome-wide studies on genes contributing to suicidal behaviour

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    Association between methylation of the GR-encoding gene, early-life adversity and suicidal behaviour

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