Background: Brain activity was studied in grief following frustrated love compared to romantic love, and it was hypothesized that unhappy lovers compared to happy lovers would have decreased brain activity in regions specific to emotional and reward circuits, such as frontal brain areas, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), bilateral insula or posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). Methods: Twelve volunteers intensely in love and 12 volunteers recently separated from their romantic partners were scanned performing 3 runs of functional magnetic resonance imaging acquisition. Subjects viewed partner pictures versus erotic pictures during the first run of the scanning process, autobiographical pictures versus neutral pictures during the second and autobiographical texts versus neutral texts during the third run. The Passionate Love Scale (PLS) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) were additionally recorded. Results: Decreased brain activity in unhappy lovers compared to happy lovers occurred in frontal areas, ACC and PCC and bilateral insula. Unhappy lovers also revealed clinical depressive symptoms in the BDI. Conclusion: Unhappy lovers compared to happy lovers exhibited clinical depressive symptoms and reduced blood oxygen level dependency changes in a brain network which has been described as being involved in major depression. This might be a cue for the close relationship between grief and depression.

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