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The association between impulsivity, ADHD, and suicide attempts in adolescents


Impulsive choices and actions have been related to suicidal behavior and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The Stop-Signal Task is a well-known paradigm for measuring motor impulsivity. The primary purpose of this study is to investigate the predictive utility of the Stop-Signal Paradigm for adolescent suicidality and ADHD to investigate this paradigm as a potential endophenotype for suicidal behavior. 166 adolescents (ages 12-18) were recruited from Bradley Hospital's adolescent inpatient unit; to date, 108 six month follow-up assessments have been completed. The Columbia-Suicide Severity Ratings Scale and the Kiddie-Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia were used to assess baseline suicidality and ADHD; the self-report measure UPPS-P Behavior Scale was used in addition to the Stop-Signal Task to assess baseline impulsivity. The Stop-Signal Reaction Time (SSRT) was calculated and participant SSRTs were included as impulsivity measures based on established criteria from the literature. Positive (t=-2.34; p=0.02) and negative (t=-2.97; p=0.006) urgency subscales from the UPPS-P were predictive of suicide attempts at the 6 month assessment. Baseline SSRTs did not predict suicide attempts reported at the 6 month assessment, but did distinguish between teens with and without ADHD (t[59]=-2.062, p=0.04), suggesting motor impulsivity may be more associated with ADHD than with suicidal behavior. Future directions include exploring other facets of impulsivity and associated characteristics such as risk-taking.


Gerlus, Nimesha, and Spirito, Anthony, "The association between impulsivity, ADHD, and suicide attempts in adolescents" (2016). Summer Research Symposium. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.



  • Summer Research Symposium

    Each year, Brown University showcases the research of its undergraduates at the Summer Research Symposium. More than half of the student-researchers are UTRA recipients, while others receive funding from a variety of Brown-administered and national programs and fellowships and go …