The neurobiology of self-face recognition in depressed adolescents with low or high suicidality

Karina Quevedo, Rowena Ng, Hannah Scott, Jodi Martin, Garry Smyda, Matt Keener, Caroline W. Oppenheimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


This study sought to test whether the neurobiology of self-processing differentiated depressed adolescents with high suicidality (HS) from those with low suicidality (LS) and healthy controls (HC; N = 119, MAGE = 14.79, SD = 1.64, Min = 11.3, Max = 17.8). Participants completed a visual self-recognition task in the scanner during which they identified their own or an unfamiliar adolescent face across 3 emotional expressions (happy, neutral or sad). A 3-group (HS, LS, HC) by 2 within-subject factors (2 Self conditions [self, other] and 3 Emotions [happy, neutral, sad]) GLM yielded (a) a main effect of Self condition with all participants showing higher activity in the right occipital, precuneus and fusiform during the self- versus other-face conditions; (b) a main effect of Group where all depressed youth showed higher dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activity than HC across all conditions, and with HS showing higher cuneus and occipital activity versus both LS and HC; and (c) a Group by Self by Emotion interaction with HS showing lower activity in both mid parietal, limbic, and prefrontal areas in the Happy self versus other-face condition relative to the LS group, who in turn had less activity compared to HC youth. Covarying for depression severity replicated all results except the third finding; In this subsequent analysis, a Group by Self interaction showed that although HC had similar midline cortical structure (MCS) activity for all faces, LS showed higher MCS activity for the self versus other faces, whereas HS showed the opposite pattern. Results suggest that the neurophysiology of emotionally charged self-referential information can distinguish depressed, suicidal youth versus nonsuicidal depressed and healthy adolescents. Neurophysiological differences and implications for the prediction of suicidality in youth are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1185-1200
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Adolescence
  • Brain function
  • Midline cortical structures
  • Self-face
  • Self-processing
  • Suicidality

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