The neurobiology of grief as an emerging research field has the potential to provide mechanistic and systems-
level insight into this nearly universal stressful life event. However, investigators using animal and human
neurobiological models to study grief have very little contact, preventing exchange of information with high
translational value. This application for an R13 grant is to provide travel support for a diverse group of
researchers to attend and actively take part in two annual conferences on the social neuroscience of grief. The
inaugural Social Neuroscience of Grief: 2020 Vision meeting will take place January 24 – 26, 2020. Social
Neuroscience of Grief: Early Adversity and Later Life Reversibility will take place January 22 – 24, 2021.
Both conferences will be held at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.
By age 65, 40% of women and 20% of men will cope with the death of a spouse. Older adults are at particular
risk for social isolation and increased bereavement-related mortality tied to suicide and cardiovascular events.
A recent explosion of grief research includes: 1) an animal model of spousal bereavement developed in voles,
2) construction and inclusion of prolonged grief disorder in the ICD-11, and 3) the first human fMRI
bereavement studies. Overlapping findings in the neural mechanisms of grief in both human and animal
models point to the involvement of the HPA axis and the nucleus accumbens brain region, among others.
Conference organizers will include the PI of this application, Mary-Frances O'Connor, PhD (University of
Arizona), Zoe Donaldson, PhD (University of Colorado), and Oliver Bosch, PhD (University of Regensburg).
Key leaders in the field who have agreed to attend will include mid-level, junior faculty (including two K01
awardees), and advanced doctoral students. Emergence of translational models is most likely to succeed by
providing younger investigators access to cutting edge models and current researchers in the field. Planned
advertisement will attract additional participation, estimated at 40. No other scientific meetings overlap with the
content of the proposed conferences.
The 2020 and 2021 Social Neuroscience of Grief conferences will give researchers an opportunity to 1) obtain
knowledge about state-of-the-art animal and human research on grief, and 2) interact with like-minded
investigators and trainees to foster collaborations, develop a translational model of the social neuroscience of
grief, write a review paper for neuroscience journal(s), and develop symposia submissions. This scientific
knowledge and these investigator interactions are critical to translating basic research into clinical impact for
those suffering from this devastating life stressor, especially in the later years of life.