Suicidal attempts and increased right amygdala volume in schizophrenia

Ilaria Spoletini, Fabrizio Piras, Sabrina Fagioli, Ivo Alex Rubino, Giovanni Martinotti, Alberto Siracusano, Carlo Caltagirone, Gianfranco Spalletta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Suicide is a major cause of death in schizophrenia. Neurobiological studies suggest that suicidality is associated with abnormal brain structure and connectivity in fronto-temporo-limbic regions. However, it is still unclear whether suicidality in schizophrenia is related to volumetric abnormalities in subcortical structures that play a key role in emotion regulation, aggression and impulse control. Therefore, we aimed to examine whether the volume of selected subcortical regions is associated with previous suicidal attempts and self-aggression in schizophrenia. For this cross-sectional study, we recruited 50 outpatients with schizophrenia and 50 healthy controls (HC) matched for age and gender. Fourteen patients had a history of one or more suicide attempts. Different forms of aggression were assessed using the Modified Overt Aggression Scale. All participants underwent structural MR imaging at 3 Tesla. Physical volumetric measures were calculated for the lateral ventricles, thalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, caudate, putamen, pallidum and accumbens using an automatic segmentation method on T1-weighted high-resolution (voxel size 1×1×1mm3) images. Multivariate and follow-up univariate ANOVAs revealed a selective increase in volume in the right amygdala of patients with a history of suicidality compared both to patients without such a history and HC. Moreover, in the entire patient group increased right amygdala volume was related to increased self-aggression. Our findings suggest that right amygdala hypertrophy may be a risk factor for suicide attempts in patients with schizophrenia and this could be relevant for suicide prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-40
Number of pages11
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


  • Amygdala
  • Schizophrenia
  • Self-aggression
  • Subcortical structures
  • Suicide
  • Volumetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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