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Neuropathology of suicide: recent findings and future directions

Abstract

Suicide is a major public health concern and a leading cause of death in most societies. Suicidal behaviour is complex and heterogeneous, likely resulting from several causes. It associates with multiple factors, including psychopathology, personality traits, early-life adversity and stressful life events, among others. Over the past decades, studies in fields ranging from neuroanatomy, genetics and molecular psychiatry have led to a model whereby behavioural dysregulation, including suicidal behaviour (SB), develops as a function of biological adaptations in key brain systems. More recently, the unravelling of the unique epigenetic processes that occur in the brain has opened promising avenues in suicide research. The present review explores the various facets of the current knowledge on suicidality and discusses how the rapidly evolving field of neurobehavioural epigenetics may fuel our ability to understand, and potentially prevent, SB.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Sylvanne Daniels for expert and essential help in the preparation of this review. P-EL is supported by scholarships from the Fondation Fyssen, the Fondation Bettencourt-Schueller, the Canadian Institute of Health Research, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale and the Fondation Deniker. NM is a CIHR New Investigator and is supported by the CIHR grant MOP-111022 and by an ERA-NET NEURON (FRQ-S) team grant. GT holds a Canada Research Chair (Tier 1), Fonds de Recherche du Québec—Santé (FRQS) Chercheur National salary award and a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Award. He is supported by grants from the CIHR (FDN148374, MOP93775, MOP11260, MOP119429 and MOP119430), from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) (1R01DA033684), by the FRQS through the Quebec Network on Suicide, Mood Disorders and Related Disorders and through an investigator-initiated research grant from Pfizer.

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Correspondence to G Turecki.

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GT has received investigator-initiated grants from Pfizer Canada. The other authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Lutz, PE., Mechawar, N. & Turecki, G. Neuropathology of suicide: recent findings and future directions. Mol Psychiatry 22, 1395–1412 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2017.141

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