The GRIEF/separation distress system
[This] system was initially called the PANIC system, but few understood the intent of that primary-process terminology, so we shifted to the more comprehensible tertiary-process term of GRIEF (highlighting once more terminological problems in emotion research: what are the differences between the tertiary-level emotions of bereavement, grief, and mourning, for instance?). In any event, young socially dependent animals have powerful emotional systems to solicit nurturance. They exhibit intense crying when lost, alerting caretakers to attend to their offspring. ESB mapping of this separation-distress system has highlighted circuitry running from dorsal PAG to anterior cingulate, and it is aroused by glutamate and CRF and inhibited by endogenous opioids, oxytocin, and prolactin - the major social-attachment, socialbonding chemistries of the mammalian brain. These neurochemicals are foundational for the secure attachments that are so essential for future mental health and happiness. It is still worth considering that panic attacks may reflect sudden endogenous spontaneous loss of feelings of security (acute separation-distress) rather than sudden FEAR. We predict that these circuits are tonically aroused during human grief and sadness, feelings that accompany low brain opioid activity.