Dwelling in prolonged grief: Resting state functional connectivity during oxytocin and placebo administration

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2 Scopus citations


Clinical theories of adaptation in bereavement highlight a need for flexible shifting between mental states. However, prolonged motivational salience of the deceased partner may be a complicating factor, particularly when coupled with perseverative thinking about the loss. We investigated how prolonged grief symptoms might relate to resting state functional brain network connectivity in a sample of older adults (n = 38) who experienced the death of a partner 6–36 months prior, and whether intranasal oxytocin (as a neuropeptide involved in pair-bonding) had differential effects in participants with higher prolonged grief symptoms. Higher scores on the Inventory of Complicated Grief (ICG) were associated with lower anticorrelation (i.e., higher functional connectivity) between the defaultretrosplenial – cingulo-operculardACC network pair. Intranasal oxytocin increased functional connectivity in the same defaultretrosplenial – cingulo-operculardACC circuit but ICG scores did not moderate effects of oxytocin, contrary to our prediction. Higher ICG scores were associated with longer dwell time in a dynamic functional connectivity state featuring positive correlations among default, frontoparietal, and cingulo-opercular networks, across both placebo and oxytocin sessions. Dwell time was not significantly affected by oxytocin, and higher prolonged grief symptoms were not associated with more variability in dynamic functional connectivity states over the scan. Results offer preliminary evidence that prolonged grief symptoms in older adults are associated with patterns of static and time-varying functional network connectivity and may specifically involve a default network-salience-related circuit that is sensitive to oxytocin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-257
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • bereavement
  • complicated grief
  • dynamic functional connectivity
  • functional connectivity
  • oxytocin
  • prolonged grief
  • resting state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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