Lisa Pan, M.D.

Fellow in Child & Adolescent Depression

Project Details


David Brent, M.D.


University of Pittsburgh


Neural Circuitry Underlying Early-Onset Suicide Attempt


Neural Circuitry Underlying Early-Onset Suicide Attempt


Dr. Pan proposes to use established methods in functional neuroimaging to characterize the brain circuitry abnormalities underlying early onset suicide attempt.

She will assess adolescents with a history of both suicide attempt and major depressive disorder, psychiatric controls who have a history of depression alone, and healthy controls with well-established neurocognitive tasks. She hypothesizes that history of suicide attempt in children and adolescents will be associated with differences in brain activation patterns as compared to both psychiatric and healthy controls.

The primary goal of this research project is to examine the brain pathways underlying differences in cognitive and emotion processing in adolescents with depression with and without history of suicide attempt, by focusing on the following areas: processing of emotions, impulse control, and risky decision-making, that have been demonstrated to activate specific areas of the brain including: amygdala and ventral striatum, dorsal prefrontal cortex, and ventromedial and dorsomedial prefrontal cortices respectively.

Dr. Pan’s study of the neural circuitry of adolescent suicide attempt is important in that it will help to more precisely define:

  1. cognitive and emotional processing abnormalities associated with suicidal behavior;
  2. functional neuroimaging circuitry related to these brain abnormalities; and, in turn,
  3. the relationship between these abnormalities and onset and history of suicidal behavior.

Increased understanding of these markers may have a significant impact upon the future design and monitoring of treatment and prevention efforts to improve the long-term outcome of individuals with suicidal behavior. This is the first study of its kind in a pediatric population.

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