Studies Center on Serious Problem of Suicide

By timtaylor  //  December 7th, 2015  // 

Ricardo Caceda, M.D., Ph.D.

Ricardo Caceda, M.D., Ph.D.

Suicide is not a simple cry for help, it is a sign of a serious problem, one that many people see as having only one solution. The 10th most common cause of death in the United States, suicide is responsible for more than 41,000 deaths every year and over 800,000 emergency department visits in our country. Closer to home, 447 persons died by suicide in Arkansas in 2013.

PRI’s Ricardo Caceda, M.D., Ph.D., is currently conducting three research studies related to suicidal thinking and behavior. These three studies, all funded by UAMS, use approaches ranging from cognitive assessments and genetics to brain imaging to examine the neurobiology of suicidal behavior in an effort to expand our understanding of suicide and to improve suicide prevention.

One of the studies focuses on how suicidal behavior and thoughts might alter a person’s brain function during decision making and pain processing. The participants undergo a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan and complete a series of questionnaires about their issues with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and physical pain as well as childhood experiences related to their current condition. Many of the participants are currently being treated in PRI’s inpatient units and Walker Family Clinic. This and the other studies are also testing individuals with no history of mental problems as a reference population.

The second study is utilizing genetic testing and a series of questionnaires similar to the first study but, instead of fMRI scanning, will use computer tasks to determine how the participants make decisions related to time and impulsivity.

The third study will use cutting-edge technology, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), to decrease intensity and severity of thoughts of suicide in patients hospitalized at PRI by reducing impulsivity. This project has the twofold purpose of exploring impulsivity as a mechanism of suicide and to test TMS as potential intervention for patients at high risk for suicide.

“We hope to get a better understanding of why people attempt suicide and what makes them have suicidal thoughts because there is a great deal about this problem that we don’t understand for a lot of reasons,” says Caceda, who sees patients on PRI’s inpatient units as well as conducting clinical research. “These studies could be very helpful in helping identify people who are at risk for suicide and helping them address the problem before it gets too far.”

Anyone who qualifies to take part in one or more of the studies will be compensated for their time. Those wanting to find out how to participate in them should contact PRI’s Nolan Kordsmeier at (501) 526-8487.