Adolescent suicide attempts and ideation are linked to brain function during peer interactions

Madeline B. Harms, Melynda D. Casement, Jia Yuan Teoh, Sarah Ruiz, Hannah Scott, Riley Wedan, Karina Quevedo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Understanding the neural correlates of social interaction among depressed adolescents with suicidal tendencies might help personalize treatment. We tested whether brain function during social interaction is disrupted for depressed adolescents with (1) high suicide ideation and (2) recent attempts. Depressed adolescents with high suicide ideation, including attempters (n = 45;HS) or low suicide ideation (n = 42;LS), and healthy adolescents (n = 39;HC), completed a version of the Cyberball peer interaction task during an fMRI scan. Groups were compared on brain activity during peer exclusion and inclusion versus a non-social condition. During peer exclusion and inclusion, HS youth showed significantly lower activity in precentral and postcentral gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, medial frontal gyrus, insula, and putamen compared to LS youth; and significantly reduced activity in caudate and anterior cingulate cortex compared to HC youth. In a second analysis, suicide attempters (n = 26;SA) were compared to other groups. SA adolescents showed significantly higher activity in ACC and superior and middle frontal gyrus than all other groups. Brain activity was significantly correlated with negative emotionality, social functioning, and cognitive control. Conclusions: Adolescent suicide ideation and attempts were linked to altered neural function during positive and negative peer interactions. We discuss the implications of these findings for suicide prevention efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalPsychiatry Research - Neuroimaging
StatePublished - Jul 30 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by NIMH , K01MH092601 and a NARSAD to Dr. Quevedo, T32-MH018931 to Dr. Harms, and K01-MH103511 to Dr. Casement. Dr. Harms is now at Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, MN. We are very grateful to Dr. Mary Phillips, Dr. Tom Zeffiro, Dr. Daniel Pine and Dr. Kathleen Thomas: key mentors and supporters of KQ's K award application.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Adolescence
  • Cyberball
  • Neuroimaging
  • Social interaction
  • Suicide


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