Mention strong words such as “death” or “praise” to someone who has suicidal thoughts and chances are the neurons in their brains activate in a totally different pattern than those of a non-suicidal person.

That’s what researchers at University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University discovered, and trained algorithms to distinguish, using data from fMRI brain scans.

The scientists published the findings of their small-scale study Monday in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

They hope to study a larger group of people and use the data to develop simple tests that doctors can use to more readily identify people at risk of suicide.

“All of those factors conspire against an accurate prediction.”

Brain scans, however, are quite telling, especially when analyzed with an algorithm, Brent and his colleagues discovered.

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