The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Heartache in head

The emotions experienced by women after the break-up of a romantic relationship can change their brains, according to new research.

A report by American scientists says that the grief felt by women after a relationship ends affects the brain in distinctive ways detectable by brain scans.

The study claims that women who are particularly upset about the collapse of a relationship show greater decreases in brain-cell activity in parts of the brain associated with emotion, motivation and attention span.

Dr Ajif Narib, who led the research team at the Medical University of South Carolina, said: 'Symptoms of depression such as low mood and loss of motivation and appetite are common following the break-up of a relationship or the death of a loved one.

'However, the most important thing about this study is that it suggests that the brain activity associated with separation grief follows a unique pattern that is different to other types of loss such as bereavement.'

The study examined 11 women aged between 18 and 40 who had been in a romantic relationship for at least six months, which had ended within the preceding 16 weeks. All were experiencing problems recovering from the split.

The researchers used the high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique to monitor the women's brain-cell activity while they focused on sad thoughts about their former boyfriends and husbands.

The MRI scans were compared with others of brain-cell activity seen when the women thought neutral thoughts about another person. The results suggested that the women who claimed to be suffering the most following their break-ups had the greatest brain changes when thinking about their former relationships.

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