Neurocognitive Processes Implicated in Adolescent Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors: Applying an RDoC Framework for Conceptualizing Risk

  • Jeremy G. Stewart
  • Lillian Polanco-Roman
  • Cristiane S. Duarte
  • Randy P. AuerbachEmail author
Suicide (R Liu, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Suicide


Purpose of Review

Identifying risk factors for STBs during adolescence is essential for suicide prevention. In this review, we employ the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) framework to synthesize studies on key neurocognitive processes—cognitive control, reward responsiveness/valuation, and negative urgency—relevant to adolescent STBs.

Recent Findings

Within subdomains of cognitive control, studies of inhibition/suppression and updating/maintenance were mixed, while response selection (i.e., decision-making) deficits were consistently associated with suicide attempts. Fewer studies, by comparison, have probed the Positive Valence Systems. Relative to healthy controls, adolescents with prior STBs may show a blunted neural response to rewards and value rewards less, but findings require replication. Finally, negative urgency, which may span subdomains within both cognitive control and the Positive Valence Systems, was associated with recent suicide attempts in the only study to directly test this association.


Few studies have examined neurocognitive functioning in relation to adolescent STBs, despite the relevance of this research to detecting suicide risk. We recommend that future studies incorporate developmental contexts relevant to both neurocognitive processes and STBs.


RDoC Suicide Cognitive control Reward responsiveness Negative urgency 


Funding Information

The project was supported through funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) U01MH116923 (RPA).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or NIMH.


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

  • Jeremy G. Stewart
    • 1
  • Lillian Polanco-Roman
    • 2
    • 3
  • Cristiane S. Duarte
    • 2
    • 3
  • Randy P. Auerbach
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Centre for Neuroscience StudiesQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.New York State Psychiatric InstituteNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Division of Clinical Developmental NeuroscienceSackler InstituteNew YorkUSA

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