Suicide is among the leading causes of death among adolescents/young adults. Despite the importance of understanding the development of suicide risk, little data exists on neural circuitry predictors of suicide, especially during adolescence/young adulthood when suicide behavior often emerges. Bipolar disorder is associated with an increased risk for suicide, with estimates that up to 50% of individuals with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide in their lifetime. Research on the development of suicide behavior in bipolar disorder is critically needed to prevent suicide and identify biomarkers of risk for targeted intervention(s).  

This project investigates the relations between neurophysiological responses to stress and suicidal thoughts and behavior in euthymic adolescents and young adults with bipolar disorder type I to test the hypothesis that altered neurophysiological response to stress assessed through functional MRI and physiological monitoring is an early trait marker of risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior. Relations with suicide ideation, hopelessness, impulsivity, attempt lethality, and executive functioning will be investigated. The relations between responses to stress, childhood maltreatment, and substance use (alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco) will be explored. Results could greatly contribute to understanding the role(s) of variation in response to acute stress in suicide risk and potentially neural predictors of suicide, in bipolar disorder, during adolescence/young adulthood when suicidal behaviors often emerge, and more generally, the relations with childhood maltreatment and substance use.

This project is funded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (SRG-0-112-20). Dr. Elizabeth Lippard from Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin is the principal investigator of this grant.