Alexandre Dombrovski, M.D., University of Pittsburgh
Young Investigator Grant (2008): $72,250
Mentor: Charles Reynolds, M.D., University of Pittsburgh
Neurobiology of Inhibitory Control in Late-Life Suicide
Abstract: This study seeks to address high rates of suicide among the elderly by better understanding the decision-making process that leads depressed older adults to engage in self-harm behaviors. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), brain activity will be compared in 20 depressed elderly persons who have attempted suicide and 20 depressed elderly persons with no history of suicidal behavior or ideation, while the subjects perform tasks that involve making decisions guided by positive and negative feedback. The study groups will be matched on severity of depression, burden of physical illness and global cognitive impairment. The investigators hypothesize that the suicide attempters will show significantly greater impairment in their ability to flexibly adjust their decision-making in response to external cues, as well as altered activity in the ventral prefrontal-striatal circuit of the brain that plays a critical role in decision-making. These finding could guide the development of new therapies, medications or other interventions for depressed, suicidal elderly, which target the specific brain circuits involved in decision-making.