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Brain Roundup

November 21, 2008

How suicide affects the brain.


The brain’s dark secrets. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A team of Canadian researchers has compared the brain tissue of people who had committed suicide with brain tissue from people who died suddenly from other causes. They found that the genes in the brain cells of the suicide victims had been altered by a chemical reaction called methylation. In normal cells, this process suppresses some genes and allows others to work; but in the suicide victims, genes were being shut down at ten times the normal rate. And the genes that were suffering were those that regulate our behavior. The finding could lead to new understanding and treatments of mental disorders.

In other brain research, scientists at University College London have identified what they call the brain’s hate circuit—the parts of the brain that light up when a person thinks of someone they despise. Tellingly, the hate circuit works through the same two areas of the brain involved in the previously discovered love circuit. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.