The researchers, publishing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, suggest that the chemical serotonin, which is involved in fetal brain growth, may play a role. A stressful or deprived womb environment may interfere with the development of the fetus and its serotonin system; other studies have shown that the brains of people who exhibit suicidal behaviors have reduced serotonin activity.
Ultimately, these findings reveal that suicide brains differ from other brains in multiple ways—in other words, “we’re really dealing with some sort of biological imbalance,” Poulter says. “It’s not an attitude problem.” And because epigenetic changes typically occur early in life, it may one day be possible to identify young people at risk for suicide by studying their methylation patterns and then to treat them with drugs that regulate this mechanism, Szyf notes.
Note: This article was originally printed with the title, "The Suicidal Brain".