Normative planning related to the risk of suicidal behavior in nonpsychotic unipolar depression

According to results published in European Journal of Psychology.

The researchers compared 20 patients with nonpsychotic unipolar depression who had attempted suicide with 20 matched patients who had not attempted suicide and with 20 healthy control participants. All participants who had attempted suicide in the past had an average of 3 suicidal acts.

To assess the neuropsychological profile of the participants, the researchers used the Go/No-Go task, the Tower of London task, the Iowa game task, the Victoria Stroop test, the card sorting test of the Wisconsin, the finger tapping task, the trail-making test, the fluency test, and the auditory verbal learning test. These tests measured executive functioning, attention, verbal memory, processing speed and psychomotor speed, respectively.

Participants with depression who had ever attempted suicide performed worse on the Go/No-Go task, which assesses response inhibition, compared to participants who had not attempted suicide and to the control group. No difference was found between participants who had not attempted suicide and controls.

Participants with depression who had not attempted suicide performed worse on the Tower of London task, a visuospatial planning task, compared to participants who had attempted suicide and controls. No difference was found between participants who had attempted suicide and controls.

Healthy controls outperformed all participants with depression, regardless of history of suicide attempts, including the Iowa Gambling Task, Victoria Stroop Test, Wisconsin Card Sorting Task, Finger Tapping Task, and Trail Making Test.

Regarding the results of the Tower of London task, the researchers wrote: “As in previous studies, we expected poor performance in both depressive groups, and this normative performance in planning may contribute to the suicide risk because it organizes each step in the pursuit of a certain goal or intention, such as a suicidal act.

Reference

Moniz M, Neves de Jesus S, Pacheco A, et al. The influence of response planning and inhibition on the cognitive functioning of nonpsychotic unipolar depressed suicide attempts. Eur J Psychol. 2017;13(4):717-732