Suicide in Seniors Linked to Impaired Brain Signaling
A recent study conducted by Alexandre Y. Dombrovski, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, showed a connection between older adults with a history of suicide attempts and impaired brain signaling in the paralimbic cortex. The study utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the activity in the area of the brain that relates to reward. In a series of questions in which certain answers were rewarded and others were not, the individual’s ability to catch on to this and make decisions accordingly was measured. Other studies have found similar problems related to reward signaling in people who have problems with drugs or gambling.
These findings of problems in decision making combined with existing evidence have serious ramifications for assessing risk of suicide in older people. These results suggest that a decision to attempt suicide is more likely to be a moment by moment decision in an older individual rather than a planned out course of action. This is a reminder that impulsivity and one’s ability to make competent decisions should be considerations in assessing for risk of suicide.
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