Altered brain processing of decision-making in healthy first-degree biological relatives of suicide completers

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Suicidal behavior is heritable, with the transmission of risk being related to the transmission of vulnerability traits. Previous studies suggest that risky decision-making may be an endophenotype of suicide. Here, we aimed at investigating brain processing of decision-making in relatives of suicide completers in order to shed light on heritable mechanisms of suicidal vulnerability. Seventeen healthy first-degree biological relatives of suicide completers with no personal history of suicidal behavior, 16 relatives of depressed patients without any personal or family history of suicidal behavior, and 19 healthy controls were recruited. Functional 3 T magnetic resonance imaging scans were acquired while participants underwent the Iowa Gambling Task, an economic decisionmaking test. Whole-brain analyses contrasting activations during risky vs safe choices were conducted with AFNI and FSL. Individuals with a family history of suicide in comparison to control groups showed altered contrasts in left medial orbitofrontal cortex, and right dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. This pattern was different from the neural basis of familial depression. Moreover, controls in comparison to relatives showed increased contrast in several regions including the post-central gyrus, posterior cingulate and parietal cortices, and cerebellum (culmen) in familial suicide; and inferior parietal, temporal, occipital, anteromedial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, and cerebellum (vermis) in familial depression. These findings most likely represent a complex combination of vulnerability and protective mechanisms in relatives. They also support a significant role for deficient risk processing, and ventral and dorsal prefrontal cortex functioning in the suicidal diathesis.

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