Patricia Burhunduli, a uOttawa MD/PhD student who is conducting her graduate work at The Royal, was recently awarded the Best Thesis Award in the neuroscience program at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine.
Her thesis focused on the association between brain structure and suicidal ideation in people with treatment-resistant depression.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youth and young adults in Canada.
“In Canada, about 4000 people lose their lives to suicide every year,” says Burhunduli. “Understanding this is very important, but also very complex. Exploring the relationship between brain structure and suicidal ideation will give us a better understanding of suicide in itself and bring us one step closer to hopefully one day be able to lower the numbers.”
She believes a greater understanding of the biology behind suicide will also help reduce the stigma that is often associated with mental illness.
“No one wakes up and chooses to be suicidal or depressed,” she says. “Your brain plays a part in controlling everything in your body and your mental health is no exception.”
Burhunduli says she is grateful to be able to access to the advanced neuroimaging technology at The Royal’s Brain Imaging Centre, not just for her master’s but for her PhD thesis as well.
“Your brain plays a part in controlling everything in your body and your mental health is no exception.”For her PhD thesis, Burhunduli will use The Royal’s positron emission tomography-magnetic resonance imaging (PET-MRI) scanner to examine brain metabolic processes in participants of a clinical trial, comparing ketamine and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depression.
“Advanced imaging technology makes it possible to learn so much. I am especially lucky to have access to the PET-MRI scanner at The Royal as a resource,” she says. “I feel like the options – and the potential – of what we can learn is beyond even what I can imagine.”