Bereavement and the Brain: Invitation to a Conversation between Bereavement Researchers and Neuroscientists

Neuropsychiatric Institute, Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, UCLA, 300 Medical Plaza, Room 3156, Los Angeles, CA 90095-7076, USA.
Death Studies (Impact Factor: 0.92). 01/2006; 29(10):905-22. DOI: 10.1080/07481180500299063
Source: PubMed


A recent development by neuroscience is neuroimaging, a method of looking into the "black box" of the brain while people are feeling, doing, and thinking in real time. The first fMRI study of bereavement has recently been published, and the present article summarizes it in non-specialist language, focusing on its theoretical and clinical applications. In an attempt to bridge the gap between bereavement researchers and neuroscientists, the author discusses how these two fields could assist each other in forwarding both fields. Three current debates in the field of bereavement research are outlined, including (a) adaptation in the normal grief process, (b) complicated grief vs. resilience, and (c) meaning-making vs. return-to-baseline models of bereavement. The potential contribution of neuroscientific data to these debates is discussed in several hypothetical examples. These examples stimulate thinking about the reciprocity between 2 questions: What can bereavement teach us about the brain? and What can the brain tell us about bereavement? This article is designed to provide enough background for investigators who are primarily concerned with the brain and those primarily concerned with bereavement to open a dialogue between both of these fields.

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