Toronto: Blame a specific gene if you are having morbidily suicidal thoughts about life in general. Neuroscientists have unearthed evidence that links a specific gene to suicidal behaviour, adding to our knowledge of the many complex causes of suicide.

The review study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, (CAMH) Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, included data from 3,352 people, of whom 1,202 had a history of suicidal behaviour.

In the past, studies have implicated the gene for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in suicidal behaviour. BDNF is involved in the development of the nervous system, the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology reports.

About 90 percent of people who have died by suicide have at least one mental health disorder, the researchers note. Study participants had schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder or general mood disorders, according to a CAMH statement.

After reviewing 11 studies and adding their own data involving cases of schizophrenia, CAMH scientists confirmed that such people, those with the methionine ('met') variation of the gene had a higher risk of suicidal behaviour compared to those with the valine variation.

“Our findings may lead to the testing and development of treatments that target this gene in order to help prevent suicide,' says James Kennedy, director of CAMH's Neuroscience Research Department.

“In the future, if other researchers can replicate and extend our findings, then genetic testing may be possible to help identify people at increased risk for suicide,” adds Kennedy.

(Agencies)