Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, yet it remains difficult to understand the mechanistic provocations and to intervene therapeutically. Stress is recognized as a frequent precursor to suicide. Psychological stress is well established to cause activation of the inflammatory response, including causing neuroinflammation, an increase of inflammatory molecules in the central nervous system (CNS). Neuroinflammation is increasingly recognized as affecting many aspects of CNS functions and behaviors. In particular, much evidence demonstrates that inflammatory markers are elevated in traits that have been linked to suicidal behavior, including aggression, impulsivity and depression. Lithium is recognized as significantly reducing suicidal behavior, is anti-inflammatory and diminishes aggression, impulsivity and depression traits, each of which is associated with elevated inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effects of lithium result from its inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3). GSK3 has been demonstrated to strongly promote inflammation, aggressive behavior in rodents and depression-like behaviors in rodents, whereas regulation of impulsivity by GSK3 has not yet been investigated. Altogether, evidence is building supporting the hypothesis that stress activates GSK3, which in turn promotes inflammation, and that inflammation is linked to behaviors associated with suicide, including particularly aggression, impulsivity and depression. Further investigation of these links may provide a clearer understanding of the causes of suicidal behavior and provide leads for the development of effective preventative interventions, which may include inhibitors of GSK3.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Biological Psychiatry