Women's reactions to a romantic breakupaffect the brain. The study found that womenwho are very upset after breaking up with aromantic partner show brain changes not witnessedin women less upset about a relationshipending.
Particularly, women who reported being distraughtabout the breakup showed greaterdecreases in brain activity in brain regions thatare connected with emotion, motivation, andattention while thinking about former partners.
The study's findings may shed some light onhow the brain processes extreme sadness, andhow that sadness can lead to depression,according to lead researcher Jeffrey P.Lorberbaum, MD. Reporting in the AmericanJournal of Psychiatry (December 2004), theresearchers suggested that depression maysometimes happen when the brain is unable tohandle sadness, separation, or grief.
In an effort to understand how the brainresponds to grief, the researchers administeredbrain scans on 9 women coping with feelingssurrounding a breakup that happened within theprevious 4 months, involving a romantic relationshipthat lasted at least 6 months. The investigatorsdocumented women's brain activity whenthey had sad thoughts about their former partner.They compared it with the activity seenwhen they thought neutral thoughts about a personthey had known for the same length of time.All the women reported immediately after therelationship ended that they had experiencedsome symptoms of depression. Most of thewomen noted that the symptoms had started todissipate after 2 weeks.