Neurocognition and Suicide Risk in Adults

  • Kenneth J.D. AllenEmail author
  • Melanie L. Bozzay
  • Emma R. Edenbaum
Suicide (R Liu, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Suicide


Purpose of Review

Neurocognitive deficits (impaired mental abilities corresponding to brain dysfunction) are transdiagnostic features of psychiatric illness, which account for the vast majority of suicide deaths. Here, we provide a selective empirical overview of neurocognitive factors and associated pathophysiology implicated in adult suicide. The present report draws primarily from the neuropsychology literature to complement and update prior reviews and meta-analyses.

Recent Findings

Suicidality is linked to impairment across neurocognitive domains, particularly inhibition and decision-making components of executive functioning (EF).


Extant research has primarily examined “cool” EF in suicide, yet there is strong preliminary evidence for the importance of “hot” EF involved in affect regulation and value-based decision-making. Our review accordingly integrates what is known about neurocognition and suicidality under a conceptual framework informed by this literature and prior theory. We specifically propose that hot EF deficits represent a common pathway to suicide from various distal risk factors.


Suicidality Suicidal ideation Neuropsychology Executive functioning Cognitive control Emotion 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOberlin CollegeOberlinUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry & Human BehaviorAlpert Medical School of Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  3. 3.Psychosocial Research ProgramButler HospitalProvidenceUSA
  4. 4.Center for Neurorestoration and NeurotechnologyProvidence VA Medical CenterProvidenceUSA

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