2018 Fall

Lost in Loss: A Window into the Grieving Brain

When faced with the loss of a loved one, most of us grieve normally and reach a point where we can reengage with life. However, for 1 in 10 bereaved people, this process goes awry, and their mourning is stalled. Dr. Zoe Donaldson asks: How does your brain heal itself when you lose someone? And how can we help those who are lost in their loss? Dr. Zoe Donaldson is an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. She joined the faculty after completing a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Emory University and pursuing post-doctoral training at Columbia University. She studies how close social bonds, such as those that mediate friendships and romantic love, are encoded in the brain. In order to understand the cells and molecules that make bonding possible, her lab uses monogamous prairie voles. Unlike rats and mice, these rodents forms lifelong pair bonds between mates akin to human romantic partnerships. By examining the neurobiology underlying these bonds and what happens when they are lost, she hopes to identify novel treatments for psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders.