General, Research, Technology

What happens to the brain when a loved one dies?

Throughout his life, a person experiencesa lot of emotions associated with what is happening around. These can be both joyful moments and negative ones, which, as a rule, people try to forget (but it does not always work out). However, the most serious emotional shock is the loss of a loved one, a close family member. Of course, such an event cannot but affect the brain, and in recent years of research, scientists increasingly refer the loss of a loved one to types traumatic brain injury, despite the fact that it is correct to attribute it to mental trauma. But what exactly happens to the brain when this happens in life?

It's not just about emotions. Emotional shock can change how your brain works

The problem is not sadness and sadness at all; loss causes confusion, disorientation, and wrong thinking. Lisa Shulman, a neurologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. - Emotional trauma leads to serious changes in brain function that persist throughout life.

Scientists are increasingly looking at the loss of a loved onehuman as a serious brain injury. The human brain rewires itself (a process called neuroplasticity) in response to the emotional trauma it receives. In her book, Schulman, whose husband died of cancer, describes the feeling that she is waking up in an unfamiliar world where no rules are followed. Several times in the months following her husband's death, she lost track of time. Once, having done her business, she went to an unfamiliar place and ultimately did not know where she was and how she got there.

Mental trauma literally destroys the brain

If all of this can happen to a neurologist who understands brain biochemistry, what about the rest?

The consequences of emotional trauma

What's the matter, why does a person begin to behaveIn a similar way? After loss, the human body releases hormones and chemicals that accumulate in huge quantities. Every day, reminders of a sad event trigger a stressful response and ultimately modify the way the brain works... The way a person lived before is forgotten, andthe brain turns everything upside down, giving priority to the most primitive functions. Prefrontal Cortex, Center for Decision Making and Emotion Control fade into the background, and the limbic system, in which our instincts for survival are involved, becomes the main.

In a person with emotional distress, the “thinking” center of the brain and the control of emotions become inactive. In this case, the "center of fear" becomes hyperactive.

In an attempt to deal with overwhelming thoughts andemotions and maintain their functions the brain acts like a super filter. He tries to keep memories and emotions "in an acceptable zone" in order to minimize stress, or completely erase them. Mourners try their best to shake off thoughts of loss, according to a 2019 study published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Result: increased anxiety and inability to think correctly.

According to scientists, this is not unusual. Therefore, grieving people may lose keys several times a day, forget who they are calling, and have difficulty remembering the names of their best friends. This sensation is comparable to the most intense and excruciating pain.

Research shows that these cognitivethe effects are more pronounced in people who have experienced severe grief. The human brain cannot understand the cause of the death of a loved one and even tries to come up with an explanation. This can lead to an eternal debate between "what if" and "if only", which inevitably leads to feelings of guilt.

According to scientists, such a brain response is closely related to the relationships that arise between people.

Once the brain recovers, the person can live with this event.

Each of us reacts differently to grief, and thisthe response is determined by the relationship we form early in life, as well as the intensity of the grief, says Shulman. “Thus, even though areas of the brain may respond in the same way to emotional upheavals in different people, the sensory experience of grief is unique to each person.

How to deal with mental trauma

As with any trauma, emotionallyan injured brain requires a period of recovery and rehabilitation. We do not return to our usual activities immediately after heart surgery, but somehow we hope to bounce back after the mental struggle associated with the loss of a loved one.

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Research shows that a variety of activities can be used to cope with these types of injuries, from taking medication before psychotherapy and even massage... For example, in one case, participation inEight weeks of informed decision-making cognitive therapy improved a person's ability to perform complex mental processes. Other studies show that it is enough for a person to simply abruptly change their occupation.

For some, it means wrapping yourself in a loved one.a T-shirt or blanket, write down positive memories in a diary, or create a photo album or video about life with a loved one. For others - moving to another country, changing jobs or image. Ultimately, the brain puts everything back in place anyway. However, according to scientists, the consequences of loss still remain with a person for life. And there is no way to fix it.