Emil F. Coccaro, M.D.

Emil F. Coccaro, M.D., University of Chicago

Distinguished Investigator Grant (2008): $100,000

Diffusion Tensor Imaging Studies of Suicidal Behavior

Abstract: This research will be the first to examine white matter integrity in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) with a history of suicidal behavior compared with healthy controls. White matter integrity will be examined through Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI). DTI is a magnetic resonance imaging technique that can examine the integrity of white matter tracts and map white matter tracts in vivo. In preliminary data with non-suicidal impulsively aggressive individuals these investigators have found DTI abnormalities in white matter and white matter tracts associated with corticolimbic pathways. Accordingly, this study will determine if these abnormalities also exist in patients with histories of suicidal behavior. Since patients with BPD have a very high rate of suicidal behavior, 20 BPD patients with suicidal behavior, 20 BPD patients without histories of suicidal behavior and 20 healthy controls will be studied. The key aim of this study is to examine the structural integrity of white matter tracts in the brains of individuals with BPD who have a history of attempting suicide. Demonstration of abnormalities in white matter tracts in individuals with histories of suicide attempts will highlight the role played by white matter integrity, as well as the nature of the neuronal circuits, that may be involved in suicide risk. Such work will enhance our understanding of neuronal pathways in individuals with histories of suicidal behavior.