We study how cognitive abilities and decision making
contribute to suicide risk.
Katalin Szántó founded the Longitudinal Research Program in Late-Life Suicide at the University of Pittsburgh to understand the interacting risk and protective factors related to biological and psychosocial factors of aging that lead to the elevated suicide rate in late-life. Known clinical and psychosocial suicide risk factors have low predictive value, and provide little insight into the high suicide rate in the elderly. Moreover only a small minority of those who contemplate suicide proceed to suicidal behavior, but traditional risk factors for suicide poorly distinguish between suicide ideators and suicide attempters and do not take into consideration the heterogeneity of suicidal behavior. In addition to a cross-sectional study of decision processes associated with late-life suicidal behavior, we conduct a longitudinal study of late-life suicide attempters, which provides a unique opportunity to evaluate the predictive value of these risk factors on prospectively assessed suicidal behavior. We use neurocognitive assessments, game theory experiments, and decision process measures to understand how cognitive abilities and decision making contribute to suicide risk.