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Spinal Fluid Chemical Levels Linked To Suicidal Behavior 85

An anonymous reader writes "For the first time, researchers have found that a chemical in the brain called glutamate is linked to suicidal behavior. While previous research and drugs have targeted serotonin to fight severe depression, this study shows that more attention should be paid to this chemical."
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Spinal Fluid Chemical Levels Linked To Suicidal Behavior

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  • Medical Daily is not a reliable source, in my opinion. Is the publication paying for so many links to it? Does the owner of Slashdot, Dice Holdings, have a financial relationship with Medical Daily?
    • by BeanThere ( 28381 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @01:36PM (#42301977)

      TFA contains a direct link to the original article in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology [nature.com] FFS, can we advance to the next stage of logical fallacies now ..

      • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @01:50PM (#42302083) Homepage

        OK then, it's Bush's fault....

        The original FA (in the journal) has a reasonable abstract:

        The NMDA-receptor antagonist ketamine has proven efficient in reducing symptoms of suicidality, although the mechanisms explaining this effect have not been detailed in psychiatric patients. Recent evidence points towards a low-grade inflammation in brains of suicide victims. Inflammation leads to production of quinolinic acid (QUIN) and kynurenic acid (KYNA), an agonist and antagonist of the glutamatergic N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, respectively. We here measured QUIN and KYNA in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 64 medication-free suicide attempters and 36 controls, using gas chromatography mass spectrometry and high-performance liquid chromatography. We assessed the patients clinically using the Suicide Intent Scale and the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). We found that QUIN, but not KYNA, was significantly elevated in the CSF of suicide attempters (p less than 0.001). As predicted, the increase in QUIN was associated with higher levels of CSF interleukin-6. Moreover, QUIN levels correlated with the total scores on Suicide Intent Scale. There was a significant decrease of QUIN in patients who came for follow-up lumbar punctures within 6 months after the suicide attempt. In summary, we here present clinical evidence of increased QUIN in the CSF of suicide attempters. An increased QUIN/KYNA quotient speaks in favor of an overall NMDA-receptor stimulation. The correlation between QUIN and the Suicide Intent Scale indicates that changes in glutamatergic neurotransmission could be specifically linked to suicidality. Our findings have important implications for the detection and specific treatment of suicidal patients, and might explain the observed remedial effects of ketamine.

        TL;DR - Suicidally depressed patients seem to have a low level inflammatory process going on. They measure two compounds (out of many) in spinal fluid samples of depressed and control patients that are part of the inflammatory pathway are related to the turnover of glutamate, an amino acid felt to be a neurotransmitter (first link the TFS, a nice short explanation). The glutamate agonist levels were higher in suicidal patients, the glutamate antagonist not.

        Potentially a method of quantitating level of suicideality which is a very problematic issue (witness the recent shootings in Connecticut). Very early data. Manuscript submitted but not accepted. At the level of interesting but don't run down to the local Szechuan restaurant and OD on MSG. Oh, and leave the ketamine to the vets.

        • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @01:51PM (#42302091) Homepage

          Forgot to add:

          Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball.

        • by The_mad_linguist ( 1019680 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @03:20PM (#42302769)

          glutamate, an amino acid felt to be a neurotransmitter

          Felt to be a neurotransmitter in the same way that hemoglobin is felt to be important to your circulatory system.

        • Speaking of which, are suicide rates lower in Japan? According to my buddies wife, who lived there for a while, it's actually hard to find regular salt because almost everyone uses MSG exclusively. I also use MSG almost exclusively instead of table salt. Not because it tastes better or anything, I just like to freak people out when I cook for them and they want to know what I put in it. As soon as I whip out the MSG their eyes get big "I thought that was poisonous!!!" lol

          FYI: MSG + Onion powder + fresh grou

          • Answered my own question:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_in_Japan [wikipedia.org]
            Looks like MSG wont do you any good. But if anything will get you out of your funk and keep you from offing yourself, my burger recipe is it.

            • re-read the article. The people who attempted suicide had higher levels of glutamate:

              The research indicated that the patients who had attempted suicide had quinolinic levels that were twice as high as the controls had. That indicated that their glutamate levels were far higher than that of healthy people. The patients who had reported having the strongest desire to kill themselves also had the highest levels of quinolinic acid.

              So you should keep those burgers away from depressed people with easy access to k

              • by Genda ( 560240 )

                So are we saying that Japanese ritual suicide may in fact just be the result of a seasoning selection??? Hhhhmmmm, DEATH BY UMAMI!!!!

            • I thought the article said that the suicidal patients had *higher* levels of glutamate, not lower. So wouldn't the extra glutamate from MSG intake make you more suicidal? In any case, it's like they say, all things in moderation.
          • True story, I was once given a stern lecture on the dangers of MSG's by a colleague while he sat smoking a cigarette. No trace of irony in his voice. That said, MSG's probably really aren't very good for you.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          It may all come down the the xCT cystein antiporter on glial cells. These cells mop up excess extracellular glutamic acid and turn it into inactive glutamine which can be safely returned to neurons as well as producing Glutathione together with cystein

          as our bodies produce superoxide radical O2^- as a by product of respiration we've developed a defense mechanism the SuperOxideDismutase enzyme which turns it into the less harmful H2O2, consuming glutathione in the process. Glutathione is a tripeptide manifac

        • Oh, and leave the ketamine to the vets.

          Soldiers have all the fun

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @01:38PM (#42301993)

    Special K.

    "No, officer, I'm not abusing drugs, I'm suicidal"

  • Glutamate (Score:5, Informative)

    by Canjo ( 1956258 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @01:42PM (#42302029)
    Glutamate is one of the major neurotransmitters, involved in almost everything the brain does. Reading this summary is kind of like reading "Scientists have discovered that a mysterious substance called 'blood' is involved in heart disease...."
    • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @01:59PM (#42302165)
      It also overlooked the obvious correlation of suicide with dihydrogen monoxide. Not only has every person who committed suicide ingested this chemical, some even commit suicide by inhaling it!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      High blood pressure does lead to heart disease, like high brain activity leads to depression.

      • Re:Glutamate (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @02:02PM (#42302191)

        Yeah, I can see how thinking too hard can lead to depression in this world.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Thinking too hard and getting absolutely nowhere, with no horizon of actually getting somewhere.

          Anecdotally, I've noticed that people who don't like thining hard, and don't care if they get anywhere, are the happiest people out there. And because of the preconditions, you won't find them on Slashdot.

    • Indeed. Glutamate is THE MAIN neurotransmitter used by the brain. Drugs targetting glutamate transmission are very common, but because it is so fundamental to brain function, drug effects are very non-specific (wake up, fall asleep, or highly toxic). Medical Daily is clear not a reputable source.
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Alas, that's about the state of neuropharmacology. The whole serotonin SSRI anti-depressant thing is at about the same level (and probably wrong).

    • Or it would be like saying that "electrons have been found to play a critical role in the transmission of signals in CPUs. It's a true statement, but the neurotransmitters are used in a huge variety of circuits and not limited to just one subset of neurons that subserve just one set of functions.
  • Glutamate is a quite common flavour enhancer in processed food. Does that mean processed food can make you suicidal?

    • by newcastlejon ( 1483695 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @02:37PM (#42302495)

      Glutamate is a quite common flavour enhancer in processed food. Does that mean processed food can make you suicidal?

      No, but it does explain why brains are so tasty.

      • Glutamate is a quite common flavour enhancer in processed food. Does that mean processed food can make you suicidal?

        No, but it does explain why brains are so tasty.

        These [ihatemymessageboard.com] ought to be delicious, then! (Er, but you can try them first, though...)

        Warning; link NSFL ("Not Safe For Lunchtime").

  • by dtjohnson ( 102237 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @02:08PM (#42302239)

    Glutamate has become very common in all sorts of pre-cooked prepared foods...everything from canned soup to rice-a-roni mixes. It's usually added as something called "MSG" or monosodium glutamate although it is also often added under names such as 'hydrolyzed protein,' 'autolyzed protein,' 'sodium caseinate,' 'autolyzed yeast,' or 'yeast extract.' Food manufacturers have found that adding MSG has a powerful on flavor and makes consumers more likely to 'like' the food and consume greater quantities. A more scientific name for 'glutamate' is 'glutamic acid' and it is a common amino acid found in protein. Food manufacturers have argued successfully for years that since it is an amino acid found in protein, there should be no restrictions on its use. However, as TFA discusses, the quantity of glutamic acid consumed DOES matter and artificially spiking a variety of food with it to make the food taste better may be causing a lot of suicides. Perhaps the school shooter in Connecticut was a heavy consumer of something spiked with MSG such as, for example, many (although not all) varieties of potato chips.

    • You do realize that it is not only so called 'processed' foods that have MSG, right? Yes it is obviously a drug, but a very effective one. Used in the correct dosage it can make flavors more intense. Unfortunately I am highly sensitive to MSG and can only use very small quantities of it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      the blood/brain barrier is not permeable to glutamate

    • More to the point, MSG is the beginning of modern food science. It was first extracted from seaweed. It was the first chemical extracted from food. Considered a "chemical condiment" which increased food reward and therefore food consumption. None of the potential effects of increasing food reward in such a high-potency fashion, or any negative effects from constant increase in brain neurotransmitter levels were considered (and hardly are today, over 100 years later)

    • Perhaps the school shooter in Connecticut was a heavy consumer of something spiked with MSG such as, for example, many (although not all) varieties of potato chips.

      Well, one thing is for certain, due to the demise of Hostess, if he had survived, he wouldn't have been able to use the "Twinkie Defense": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twinkie_defense [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Oh horrors, better start avoiding that unnatural glutamate. All meat, fish, cheese and tomato products are evil and full of that stuff! All that savory tasting stuff.

      The reason it tastes good is because it is one of the few things we have taste receptors for. We like added glutamate for the same reason we like all those hearty tasting stews, roasts, casseroles and such that naturally contain it.

      That scary sounding monosodium, disodium and such parts in front of the name are mostly irrelevant. They just soun

    • Glutamate and glutamic acid are 2 different things.
      One is an acid and the other the conjugate base of it.
      Glutamic acid has 2 Hydrogens it can lose.
      MSG has 1.
      In a basic enough solution it could even lose the other Hydrogen.

    • That explains why when I eat a REALLY good curry, I think to myself "I could die now, happy". Damn that MSG!
  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @02:13PM (#42302283) Journal
    Then just lay off the cheap chinese food, and "things will get betterer"?

    How does this account for all the people committing suicide in Finland? There aren't many cheap chinese food places there, but those people kill themselves all the time.

    Monosodium? Whatever. Listen, I got an AGENDA to push, so don't get in the way with chemistry. The shit's like alchemy - bad for you.

    We live in caves. We speak with our hands.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bruce Perens ( 3872 )

      How does this account for all the people committing suicide in Finland? There aren't many cheap chinese food places there

      Finns in general have an asian genetic admixture. So, their food is chinese :-) . They also culturally drink incredible amounts of coffee. And there are cultural differences, including a stoicism that may lead to people getting less help for emotional issues. But perhaps the biggest issue is:

      It's dark there. For much of the winter. People are sensitive to light.

    • Just let me summarize this whole discussion:
      1. MSG is brain food.
      2. If you eat lots of it you become really smart.

      3a. That's why Chinese kids are good at math.
      3b. American teens eat it and realize that they are losers, so they become suicidal.

      (People in Finland just kill themselves because they are Finns.)

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!