The Connection Between Brain Inflammation And Suicidal Tendencies



Learning more about suicide and what led to these incidents can help in dealing with them and reducing the number of these cases. One of the believed physiological causes of suicide is brain inflammation.


Depression: Is brain inflammation tied to suicidal thoughts?


Confirming the existing link between brain inflammation and suicidal tendencies, a new study claims that people diagnosed with major depression shows an evident connection in the incidence of suicidal thoughts and the existence of brain inflammation. It focuses on measuring relevant biomarkers in living individuals and considered the first of its kind. Read more about depression here:


Around 6.7% of adults in the United States suffer from major depression. Based on a World Health Organization report, depression is, in fact, one of the major causes of some disabilities worldwide. This is the same with having suicidal tendencies.


The 10th leading cause of death in the United States is suicide. With this, researchers at the University of Manchester led by Dr Peter Talbot, conducted a research to prove the link between brain inflammation and major depression. Testing the levels of biomarkers of brain inflammation on clinically depressed patients is the gist of the study.  Reported in Biological Psychiatry, the result shows that inflammation is an important factor in the neurobiology of depressed patients with suicidal ideation. This is an important discovery, especially when it comes to using personalized medicine approach to depression.


Microglial Activation ‘Prominent’ in Suicidality




In the study, patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder have their levels of translocator protein or TSPO measured. Translocator protein plays a key role in the operation of immune response systems, as well as in cell death.


When the TSPO levels are elevated, it activates the microglia, which is the immune cell of the brain. Once the microglia is activated, it means that there is an inflammation of the brain. This is exactly what Dr Talbot and the scientists want to target and focus on.


The study is conducted with 14 patients who are suffering from moderate to severe depression and are not using any antidepressants. In this study, their brains are scanned using Positron emission tomography in order to identify any sign of inflammation in the brain.


Based on the study, people suffering from depression and have incidents of suicidal thoughts are found to have significantly high TSPO levels, which means that the microglia is activated and there is inflammation in the brain.




Generally, the study links this inflammation not to depression, but to suicidal ideation. This has been proven by observing the changes in these living individuals. While previous studies showed the same results, they were using brain tissues and not living subjects. This time, though, the findings lead to the similar results based on living depressed patients.


As established in the study, the inflammation occurs in the anterior cingulate cortex, where emotional and cognition processes are involved in. This region is responsible for depressive feelings and other mood disorders. There were also inflammation signs in the insular cortex and the prefrontal cortex – these are responsible for regulating emotional function and cognitive processes related to behaviour, respectively.


Through this latest study, treatment and medication can be focused on the inflammation of the brain in support to the existing treatments for suicidal tendencies.

Share Button