The neuroscience of suicidal behaviors: What can we expect from endophenotype strategies?

P. Courtet, I. I. Gottesman, F. Jollant, T. D. Gould

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Vulnerability to suicidal behavior (SB) is likely mediated by an underlying genetic predisposition interacting with environmental and probable epigenetic factors throughout the lifespan to modify the function of neuronal circuits, thus rendering an individual more likely to engage in a suicidal act. Improving our understanding of the neuroscience underlying SBs, both attempts and completions, at all developmental stages is crucial for more effective preventive treatments and for better identification of vulnerable individuals. Recent studies have characterized SB using an endophenotype strategy, which aims to identify quantitative measures that reflect genetically influenced stable changes in brain function. In addition to aiding in the functional characterization of susceptibility genes, endophenotypic research strategies may have a wider impact in determining vulnerability to SB, as well as the translation of human findings to animal models, and vice versa. Endophenotypes associated with vulnerability to SB include impulsive/aggressive personality traits and disadvantageous decision making. Deficits in realistic risk evaluation represent key processes in vulnerability to SB. Serotonin dysfunction, indicated by neuroendocrine responses and neuroimaging, is also strongly implicated as a potential endophenotype and is linked with impulsive aggression and disadvantageous decision making. Specific endophenotypes may represent heritable markers for the identification of vulnerable patients and may be relevant targets for successful suicide prevention and treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere7
JournalTranslational psychiatry
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal models
  • Biomarker
  • Decision making
  • Emotions
  • Orbitofrontal cortex
  • Suicide


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