Subcortical brain structure and suicidal behaviour in major depressive disorder: A meta-analysis from the ENIGMA-MDD working group


Rentería, M. E., Schmaal, L., Hibar, D. P., Couvy-Duchesne, B., Strike, L. T., Mills, N. T., ... & Hatton, S. N. (2017). Subcortical brain structure and suicidal behaviour in major depressive disorder: a meta-analysis from the ENIGMA-MDD working group. Translational psychiatry, 7(5), e1116.


The aetiology of suicidal behaviour is complex, and knowledge about its neurobiological mechanisms is limited. Neuroimaging methods provide a noninvasive approach to explore the neural correlates of suicide vulnerability in vivo. The ENIGMA-MDD Working Group is an international collaboration evaluating neuroimaging and clinical data from thousands of individuals collected by research groups from around the world. Here we present analyses in a subset sample (n = 3097) for whom suicidality data were available. Prevalence of suicidal symptoms among major depressive disorder (MDD) cases ranged between 29 and 69% across cohorts. We compared mean subcortical grey matter volumes, lateral ventricle volumes and total intracranial volume (ICV) in MDD patients with suicidal symptoms (N = 451) vs healthy controls (N = 1996) or MDD patients with no suicidal symptoms (N = 650). MDD patients reporting suicidal plans or attempts showed a smaller ICV (P = 4.12 × 10 - 3) or a 2.87% smaller volume compared with controls (Cohen's d = - 0.284). In addition, we observed a nonsignificant trend in which MDD cases with suicidal symptoms had smaller subcortical volumes and larger ventricular volumes compared with controls. Finally, no significant differences (P = 0.28-0.97) were found between MDD patients with and those without suicidal symptoms for any of the brain volume measures. This is by far the largest neuroimaging meta-analysis of suicidal behaviour in MDD to date. Our results did not replicate previous reports of association between subcortical brain structure and suicidality and highlight the need for collecting better-powered imaging samples and using improved suicidality assessment instruments. © The Author(s) 2017.