Article

The Neural Basis of Empathy

Department of Social Neuroscience, Max-Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Stephanstraße 1a, 04309 Leipzig, Germany.
Annual Review of Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 22.66). 07/2012; 35(1):1-23. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-062111-150536
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Empathy--the ability to share the feelings of others--is fundamental to our emotional and social lives. Previous human imaging studies focusing on empathy for others' pain have consistently shown activations in regions also involved in the direct pain experience, particularly anterior insula and anterior and midcingulate cortex. These findings suggest that empathy is, in part, based on shared representations for firsthand and vicarious experiences of affective states. Empathic responses are not static but can be modulated by person characteristics, such as degree of alexithymia. It has also been shown that contextual appraisal, including perceived fairness or group membership of others, may modulate empathic neuronal activations. Empathy often involves coactivations in further networks associated with social cognition, depending on the specific situation and information available in the environment. Empathy-related insular and cingulate activity may reflect domain-general computations representing and predicting feeling states in self and others, likely guiding adaptive homeostatic responses and goal-directed behavior in dynamic social contexts.

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    • "Activity in the AI is thought to represent a simulated mapping of the observed indi - vidual ' s body state onto one ' s own ( Fan et al . , 2011 ; Bernhardt and Singer , 2012 ) . Two studies have linked subsequent prosocial behav - ior with AI activity when viewing another ' s suffering ( Hein et al . "
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    • "In regard to pain processing, the insula may consist of two different functional parts as the anterior insula shows the described dichotomic reorganization behavior from transient to chronic pain, while the posterior insula does not. The different parts are believed to have different functions in regard to sensation, emotion and behavior (Ploner et al., 2011; Bernhardt and Singer, 2012; McGlone et al., 2012; Gerstner et al., 2012 "
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