An association between low levels of serum cholesterol and violent or suicidal behaviour has frequently been reported, but it remains unclear how cholesterol in the peripheral system might be related to the brain functions involved in mediating suicidal behaviour. To our knowledge, there have been no previous studies aimed at answering the important question of whether there are differences in cholesterol within the brains of suicide completers. In the present study, cholesterol content was measured in cortical and subcortical tissue of brains from 41 male suicide completers and 21 male controls that died of sudden causes with no direct influence on brain tissue. No significant differences in cholesterol content were found between suicides and controls in the frontal cortex, amygdala or hippocampus. However, when the suicide completers were stratified into violent (n=31) or non-violent (n=10) groups based on the method of death, violent suicides were found to have lower grey-matter cholesterol content overall compared to non-violent suicides [F(1,111)=4.75, p=0.03], specifically in the frontal cortex (t=−4.16, d.f.=37, p<0.0005). Further exploration of the frontal cortex revealed that violent suicides had lower cholesterol content compared to non-violent suicides in the orbitofrontal cortex (t=−2.01, d.f.=36, p=0.05) and the ventral prefrontal cortex (t=−2.49, d.f.=37, p=0.02). This study represents the first direct examination of cholesterol content in brain tissue from suicide completers, and the present findings provide added support for the relationship between low cholesterol and violent or suicidal behaviour.
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