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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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... Brain hub regions that have been linked with affective or cognitive aspects of empathy include the precuneus, anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula, ventromedial and superior frontal cortex, superior and inferior parietal areas [10,22,26,51,52]. These regions greatly overlap with the salience network [53], the default mode network [54], the frontoparietal network [55] and brain systems involved in self-related processing as well as in personal emotional experiences [56,57]. ...
... By contrast, the intuitive understanding trait partially resembles the functions ascribed to default mode, prefrontal and temporo-parietal junction regions [10,11], although it particularly differs from cognitive empathy through its emphasis on the absence of effortful inferential processes. Finally, the salience network could show overlapping associations with both vicarious experience and intuitive understanding, constituting a common system for multiple empathic processes [51,52]. However, we expect that the network properties of brain regions related to vicarious experience and intuitive understanding may reasonably differ from those typically related to similar constructs in the literature as described above. ...
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Citation: Ebisch, S.J.H.; Scalabrini, A.; Northoff, G.; Mucci, C.; Sergi, M.R.; Saggino, A.; Aquino, A.; Alparone, F.R.; Perrucci, M.G.; Gallese, V.; Di Plinio, S.
... Most critically, it is unclear whether cognitive exertion would impact the assessment of pain of others similarly to one's own. Seminal models from social psychology/neuroscience suggest that others' suffering is partially processed in an embodied fashion, i.e. by recruiting the same mechanisms underlying one's own first-hand experiences [15][16][17][18][19] . Indeed, analgesic manipulations (e.g., acetaminophen, hypnosis, placebo) can similarly influence the sensitivity to self and others' pain [20][21][22] . ...
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Evaluating correctly others’ pain is a crucial prosocial ability, especially relevant for the healthcare system. In clinical settings, caregivers assess their patients’ pain under high workload and fatigue, often while dealing with competing information/tasks. However, the effect played by such cognitive strain in the appraisal of others’ pain remains unclear. Following embodied accounts that posit a shared representational code between self and others’ states, it could be hypothesized that the representation of people’s pain might be influenced by cognitive exertion similarly to first-hand experiences. Fifty participants underwent one of two demanding tasks, involving either working memory (Experiment 1: N-Back task) or cognitive interference (Experiment 2: Stroop task). After each task, participants were exposed to painful laser stimulations at three intensity levels (low, medium, high), or video-clips of patients experiencing three intensity levels of pain (low, medium, high). Participants rated the intensity of each pain event on a visual analogue scale. We found that the two tasks influenced rating of both one’s own and others’ pain, by decreasing the sensitivity to medium and high events. This was observed either when comparing the demanding condition to a control (Stroop), or when modelling linearly the difficulty/performance of each depleting task (N-Back). These effects were mirrored by the analysis of physiological responses (Heart Variability and Skin Conductance) evoked by one’s own pain. We provide converging evidence that cognitive exertion affects the subsequent appraisal of one’s own and likewise others’ pain. Healthcare personnel should be aware that high workload might alter their cognitive abilities.
... Lack of empathy: the dual nature of empathy In spite of remarkable disagreements among conceptual and operational definitions in the literature, empathy has been central to explanation of human nature (Hall & Schwartz, 2019) as our hardwired (Bernhardt & Singer, 2012) capacity for cognitive (knowing what others feel) and affective empathy (feeling what others feel) is so fundamental for social bonding and cooperation. While absence of empathic responding has been recognized as the common feature of all DT traits (Heym et al., 2019), there is no universal agreement on how lack of empathy is associated with the DT. ...
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While it is universally agreed that empathy deficit is a necessary condition for the dark roster membership, the literature provides no consensus regarding differential associations between individual Dark Triad traits with cognitive and affective empathy. With this in mind, we have investigated topology of the network consisting of Affective and Cognitive Measure of Empathy, Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Questionnaire, and Short Dark Triad traits (SD3). The network analysis disclosed cohesive configuration of multiply connected study variables, thus confirming their aversive coaction. Two main axes of study variables were identified: the ‘dark’ affective dissonance-rivalry-psychopathy axis, and the ‘brighter’ admiration-SD3 narcissism axis; each characterized by its specific manifestation of empathic deficit. Affective dissonance was the most central while affective resonance was the most redundant node of the network. Rivalry — a node connecting the two axes — had the greatest strength in the network and was closer to affective dissonance than to psychopathy. Involvement of affective dissonance uncovered the dual nature of Machiavellianism by shifting it away from psychopathy and closer to narcissism. Overall, by use of structural information not accessible by other means, this study substantiates the proposition about the essential role of distinct empathic deficits in the constellation of antagonistic traits.
... Our knowledge of the brain activities involved in empathic pain has mainly been obtained from functional neuroimaging studies (Bernhardt and Singer, 2012;Lamm et al., 2011;Singer et al., 2004;Zaki et al., 2016). The early work confirming the existence of empathic pain in rodents is reported in 2006, in which mice injected with acetic acid show increased pain responses when exposed to their cagemates with a visually dependent manner (Langford et al., 2006). ...
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Article Glutamatergic synapses from the insular cortex to the basolateral amygdala encode observational pain Graphical abstract Highlights d A new mouse model is established to study long-term observational pain d IC R-BLA R pathway is required for the formation/consolidation of observational pain d Glutamate encodes the synaptic transmission from the IC R to BLA R d Synaptotagmin-2 and RIM3 are key signals for the regulation of observational pain In brief Zhang et al. show that sibling but not stranger observer mice exhibit observational pain, which requires glutamate transmission from the insular cortex to the basolateral amygdala and is regulated by synaptotagmin-2 and RIM3. SUMMARY Empathic pain has attracted the interest of a substantial number of researchers studying the social transfer of pain in the sociological, psychological, and neuroscience fields. However, the neural mechanism of empathic pain remains elusive. Here, we establish a long-term observational pain model in mice and find that glutama-tergic projection from the insular cortex (IC) to the basolateral amygdala (BLA) is critical for the formation of observational pain. The selective activation or inhibition of the IC-BLA projection pathway strengthens or weakens the intensity of observational pain, respectively. The synaptic molecules are screened, and the upregulated synaptotagmin-2 and RIM3 are identified as key signals in controlling the increased synaptic glutamate transmission from the IC to the BLA. Together, these results reveal the molecular and synaptic mechanisms of a previously unidentified neural pathway that regulates observational pain in mice.
... According to the perceptionaction model of empathy, seeing another engage in a behavior or express an emotion activates the same neural pathways as if the observer themself were in that position (Preston and de Waal 2002). This perception-action coupling process has found support in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies (Bernhardt and Singer 2012;Decety and Jackson 2004). ...
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This paper develops Engagement, Perspective-Taking, and Recalibration (EPR), a theory of prejudice reduction and support for racial policies. I argue that interventions using engagement to encourage perspective-taking reduce prejudice and recalibrate the subject's emotional orientation toward an out-group. Using EPR, I develop an intervention to reduce prejudice toward African Americans and increase support for racial equity policies. The intervention encourages individuals to adopt the perspective of a Black man who experiences prejudice and make choices how to respond. Using an experiment in which 1,261 adults completed either the treatment or a placebo task, I find that the intervention significantly reduces prejudice, with the largest effects among those with the highest baseline animus. Reducing prejudice increases support for policies aimed at helping Black people. These results provide insight into the nature of prejudice and its impact on racial policies, and offers a low-cost intervention to increase tolerance.
... Within the DMN, the mPFC has been widely studied as playing a key role in social cognition, from processing affective and sensory information to forming social judgements, to self-and other-referential processing (de la Vega et al., 2016;Denny et al., 2012;Raichle, 2015). Posterior regions including the TPJ, precuneus, and PCC have been recognized as underlying processes related to Theory of Mind (ToM) and mentalizing, or the ability to reflect and deliberate upon another or one's own thoughts, beliefs, emotions, or personality characteristics (Bernhardt & Singer, 2012;Redcay & Warnell, 2018;Van Overwalle, 2009). These areas have also been linked to perception of facial expressions (Moriguchi et al., 2005) and empathy and forgiveness, as well as self-reflection and self-other differentiations (Kilford et al., 2016;Schilbach, 2008). ...
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Chapter
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