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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2012 Jun;14(2):141-8.

Immunological and neuroimaging biomarkers of complicated grief.

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Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Complicated grief (CG) is a disorder marked by intense and persistent yearning for the deceased, in addition to other criteria. The present article reviews what is known about the immunologic and neuroimaging biomarkers of both acute grief and CG, Attachment theory and cognitive stress theory are reviewed as they pertain to bereavement, as is the biopsychosocial model of CG. Reduced immune cell function has been replicated in a variety of bereaved populations. The regional brain activation to grief cues frequently includes the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and insula, and also the posterior cingulate cortex. Using theory to point to future research directions, we may eventually learn which biomarkers are helpful in predicting CG, and its treatment.


bereavement; complicated grief; depression; fMRI; immunity; inflammation; widow

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