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BACKGROUND: Prediction of self-harm is limited clinically. Early identification of individuals likely to repeat self-harm could improve outcomes and reduce suicide risk. Various neurocognitive deficits have been found in people who self-harm, but the ability of these to predict repetition has yet to be established AIMS: Identify neurocognitive factors that may predict repetition of self-harm. METHODS: Systematic narrative review of English language publications assessing neurocognitive functioning and self-harm repetition, searching multiple databases from inception to March 2015. Quality of studies was appraised. A narrative synthesis was performed. RESULTS: 7026 unique records were identified, and 169 full-texts assessed. 15 unique studies provided data. No imaging studies could be included. Most studies assessed cognitive control or problem solving, but neither factor was consistently associated with repetition. However, specific tasks may show promise. Two studies in adolescents suggest that value-based decision-making impairments could be predictive of repetition. There were too few results for memory to draw specific conclusions. CONCLUSIONS: Selected studies suggest promise for particular neurocognitive factors and specific cognitive tasks in terms of repetition of self-harm.

Original publication




Journal article


Neurosci Biobehav Rev

Publication Date





261 - 277


Cognitive control, Decision-making, Executive functioning, Memory, Neurocognition, Neuroimaging, Problem solving, Repetition, Self-harm, Suicide, Cognition, Humans, Problem Solving, Risk Factors, Self-Injurious Behavior