Brain weight in suicide: An exploratory study

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Abstract

Background

There is little available literature on the effect of suicide methods on brain weight.

Aims

To explore variations in post-mortem brain weight in different methods of fatal self-harm (FSH) and in deaths from natural causes.

Method

A review of a sample of coroners' records of elderly persons (60 and above). Verdicts of suicide, misadventure and open verdicts were classified as FSH. Post-mortem brain weight for 142 FSH victims and 150 victims of unexpected, sudden or unexplained death due to natural causes, and from various methods of FSH, were compared.

Results

Brain weight of victims of FSH was significantly higher than of those who died of natural causes (P < 0.01); brain weights in both groups were within the normal range for this age group. There was no significant difference in brain weight between different methods of FSH (P > 0.05).

Conclusions

The findings require critical examination and further research, to include data from younger age groups. A regional or national suicide neuropathological database could be set up if all victims of FSH underwent routine neurohistochemical post-mortem examination.

Declaration of interest

None.

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