Article

Mirror neuron activity during contagious yawning-an fMRI study

Authors:
  • Center for Psychiatry Reichenau
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Abstract

Yawning is contagious. However, little research has been done to elucidate the neuronal representation of this phenomenon. Our study objective was to test the hypothesis that the human mirror neuron system (MNS) is activated by visually perceived yawning. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess brain activity during contagious yawning (CY). Signal-dependent changes in blood oxygen levels were compared when subjects viewed videotapes of yawning faces as opposed to faces with a neutral expression. In response to yawning, subjects showed unilateral activation of their Brodmann's area 9 (BA 9) portion of the right inferior frontal gyrus, a region of the MNS. In this way, two individuals could share physiological and associated emotional states based on perceived motor patterns. This is one component of empathy (motor empathy) that underlies the development of cognitive empathy. The BA 9 is reportedly active in tasks requiring mentalizing abilities. Our results emphasize the connection between the MNS and higher cognitive empathic functions, including mentalizing. We conclude that CY is based on a functional substrate of empathy.

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... The proposed link between CY and empathy has also garnered a lot of interest within studies employing neuroimaging methods, whereby researchers can examine how humans exposed to yawn stimuli show increased activity in areas of the brain implicated in empathic processing, such as the mirror neuron system (e.g., Cooper et al., 2012;Haker et al., 2013). The argument here is that to empathize or sympathize with someone, we need to be able to project that individual's feelings or emotions onto our own mind first, before we can act appropriately (Leslie et al., 2004). ...
... Specifically, while these studies claim that they show the activation of particular brain regions involved in CY, what they actually show is how the brain reacts to sensing yawns in others, and the contagiousness of this response is either suppressed, as participants are not allowed to move in imaging studies, not reported in for example the one EEG study (Cooper et al., 2012), and possibly absent. In one study participants had to score whether they felt contagion or not (Haker et al., 2013), yet the analyses were not restricted to those contagiously rated stimuli. In another study the participants were asked to rate the contagiousness of auditory stimuli on a 4-point scale (Arnott et al., 2009), and here they indeed showed that activity of the right posterior inferior frontal gyrus was highest after listening to yawn stimuli that were rated highly for contagion. ...
... In another study the participants were asked to rate the contagiousness of auditory stimuli on a 4-point scale (Arnott et al., 2009), and here they indeed showed that activity of the right posterior inferior frontal gyrus was highest after listening to yawn stimuli that were rated highly for contagion. However, the stifling of CY responses either through collars or constraining cushions (Nahab et al., 2009;Schürmann et al., 2005), or because participants were told to lie still (Arnott et al., 2009;Haker et al., 2013), deserves careful consideration, since in and of itself this could involve heightened self-awareness (cf. Provine, 1986) and subsequent activation of empathy related brain areas specifically during exposure to yawn stimuli. ...
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Various studies and researchers have proposed a link between contagious yawning and empathy, yet the conceptual basis for the proposed connection is not clear and deserves critical evaluation. Therefore, we systematically examined the available empirical evidence addressing this association; i.e., a critical review of studies on inter-individual differences in contagion and self-reported values of empathy, differences in contagion based on familiarity or sex, and differences in contagion among individuals with psychological disorders, as well as developmental research, and brain imaging and neurophysiological studies. In doing so, we reveal a pattern of inconsistent and inconclusive evidence regarding the connection between contagious yawning and empathy. Furthermore, we identify study limitations and confounding variables, such as visual attention and social inhibition. Future research examining links between contagious yawning and empathy requires more rigorous investigation involving objective measurements to explicitly test for this connection.
... In this view, cross-species research is needed to explore empathy capacities as a bottom-up, emotional and developmental process of the brain (de Waal, 2012b). According to several neurobiological (Cooper et al., 2012; Haker et al., 2013), psychological (Lehmann, 1979; Platek et al., 2003) and ethological findings (Palagi et al., 2009; Campbell & de Waal, 2011; Campbell & de Waal, 2014; Romero, Konno & Hasegawa, 2013) yawn contagion is an empathy-related phenomenon. Specifically, yawn contagion is a form of emotional contagion, which represents the most basal layer of the empathic domain (e.g., see the " Russian Doll Model " in de Waal, 2008; Preston & de Waal, 2002; Hatfield, Rapson & Le, 2009). ...
... Yawn contagion is obvious in human beings—about 50 percent respond to video stimuli of yawning faces (Provine, 1986)—and seems to be based on a perception-action mechanism (Preston & de Waal, 2002; de Waal, 2012c), which consists in the involuntary re-enactment of an observed facial expression and creates shared representations. Neurophysiological evidence of this coupling has derived from the discovery of mirror neurons (di Pellegrino et al., 1992), recently associated with yawn contagion (Cooper et al., 2012; Haker et al., 2013). Therefore, yawn contagion provides a " low-tech " but significant evidence of mirror-like phenomena. ...
... However, both species concentrated their responses within the first minute after perceiving the stimulus yawn (Fig. 1). As yawn contagion is the expression of a mirror-like phenomenon (Cooper et al., 2012; Haker et al., 2013), our findings suggest that not only is yawn contagion well-rooted in the biology of bonobos and humans but also that the neural processes underlying and modulating yawn contagion might have been already present in the most recent common ancestor of the two species (5–7 mya, Fleagle, 2013). The similar sensitivity to others' yawns shown by the two species is probably due to similar selective pressures. ...
Article
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In humans and apes, yawn contagion echoes emotional contagion, the basal layer of empathy. Hence, yawn contagion is a unique tool to compare empathy across species. If humans are the most empathic animal species, they should show the highest empathic response also at the level of emotional contagion. We gathered data on yawn contagion in humans (Homo sapiens) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) by applying the same observational paradigm and identical operational definitions. We selected a naturalistic approach because experimental management practices can produce different psychological and behavioural biases in the two species, and differential attention to artificial stimuli. Within species, yawn contagion was highest between strongly bonded subjects. Between species, sensitivity to others' yawns was higher in humans than in bonobos when involving kin and friends but was similar when considering weakly-bonded subjects. Thus, emotional contagion is not always high-est in humans. The cognitive components concur in empowering emotional affinity between individuals. Yet, when they are not in play, humans climb down from the empathic podium to return to the "understory", which our species shares with apes.
... Neuroimaging studies have also provided support for the role of empathy in this trait. Despite divergent reports on the recruitment of the human motor neuron system (MNS), there is general consensus that contagious yawning recruits the neural network involved in cognitive empathy [2,[20][21][22]. The MNS may allow for shared emotional and physiological states based on motor patterns [23] and has been previously demonstrated to be more active in empathic individuals [24]. ...
... It asks participants to rate their probability of falling asleep (0 = no chance of dozing to 3 = high chance of dozing) during eight relatively common, daily events. The summation of the eight responses indicate whether a participant is normal (,10), borderline (10-11), or abnormal (12)(13)(14)(15)(16)(17)(18)(19)(20)(21)(22)(23)(24). The complete Epworth Sleepiness scale was only collected for the first 266 participants. ...
Article
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The contagious aspect of yawning is a well-known phenomenon that exhibits variation in the human population. Despite the observed variation, few studies have addressed its intra-individual reliability or the factors modulating differences in the susceptibility of healthy volunteers. Due to its obvious biological basis and impairment in diseases like autism and schizophrenia, a better understanding of this trait could lead to novel insights into these conditions and the general biological functioning of humans. We administered 328 participants a 3-minute yawning video stimulus, a cognitive battery, and a comprehensive questionnaire that included measures of empathy, emotional contagion, circadian energy rhythms, and sleepiness. Individual contagious yawning measurements were found to be highly stable across testing sessions, both in a lab setting and if administered remotely online, confirming that certain healthy individuals are less susceptible to contagious yawns than are others. Additionally, most individuals who failed to contagiously yawn in our study were not simply suppressing their reaction, as they reported not even feeling like yawning in response to the stimulus. In contrast to previous studies indicating that empathy, time of day, or intelligence may influence contagious yawning susceptibility, we found no influence of these variables once accounting for the age of the participant. Participants were less likely to show contagious yawning as their age increased, even when restricting to ages of less than 40 years. However, age was only able to explain 8% of the variability in the contagious yawn response. The vast majority of the variability in this extremely stable trait remained unexplained, suggesting that studies of its inheritance are warranted.
... In their research, Haker and colleagues (Haker et al., 2013) employed functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess human brain activity in response to others' yawns. When subjects observed videos of yawning faces as opposed to faces with a neutral expression, there was activation in right Brodmann's area 9, a portion of the right inferior frontal gyrus which is a region of the mirror neuron system. ...
... Cognitive empathy is a top-down process that consciously evaluates information not directly observable (e.g., taking another perspective; de Waal & Preston, 2017). The involvement of higher cognitive functions, which are not fully developed at birth, could explain why contagious yawning occurs later throughout the human development (Haker et al., 2013). Some experimental studies on yawn contagion in humans showed that both infants and preschool children were not infected by yawns of both familiar and unfamiliar subjects. ...
Article
Yawning is a primitive and stereotyped motor action involving orofacial, laryngeal, pharyngeal, thoracic and abdominal muscles. Contagious yawning, an involuntarily action induced by viewing or listening to others' yawns, has been demonstrated in human and several non‐human species. Previous studies with humans showed that infants and preschool children, socially separated during video experiments, were not infected by others' yawns. Here, we tested the occurrence of yawn contagion in 129 preschool children (ranging from 2.5 to 5.5 years) belonging to five different classes by video recording them in their classrooms during the ordinary school activities. As it occurs in adult humans, children of all ages were infected by others' yawns within the 2 min after the perception of the stimulus. The yawn contagion occurred earlier than previously thought. For children, it appears that the natural social setting is more conducive to yawn contagion than the inherently artificial experimental approach. Moreover, children's gender did not affect the level of contagious yawning. The neural, emotional and behavioural traits of preschool children are probably not sufficiently mature to express variability between boys and girls; nevertheless, children appeared to be already well equipped with the 'neural toolkit' necessary for expressing yawn contagion.
... 11 This system plays a role in imitation and social herd reflexes such as contagious laughter or yawning. [12][13][14] Some authors have therefore hypothesized that contagious itch might also reflect such a social herd reflex with the aim to remove ectoparasites from uncovered skin. 15 Interestingly, in patients with atopic dermatitis contagious itch is amplified: ...
... 10 Some of the activated areas belong to the so-called mirror neuron system, which plays a role in imitation, and social herd reflexes such as contagious laughter or yawning. [11][12][13][14]26 Thus, the topographical distribution of CI with the "ventral peripheral" and "dorsal central" pattern in our study strongly supports the assumption that CI serves as a kind of social herd reflex with the aim to remove ectoparasites from uncovered skin: Ventrally, itch CI was perceived on areas visible and reachable by scratch to remove ectoparasites. However, dorsally CI was perceived mainly on the back as barely reachable and invisible for the affected individual, thus, necessitating another individual for scratching, checking, and removal of ectoparasites-a behavior often seen in grooming primates. ...
Article
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(Audio‐)visual itch transmission is referred to as “contagious itch” (CI) and has been linked to an evolutionarily ingrained ectoparasite defense system. Disgust is considered to be part of the behavioral immune system aimed to prevent the spreading of pathogens. Although they probably serve a similar purpose, the relationship between CI and disgust is unknown. We investigated their co‐prevalence, correlation, and differences between the sexes and between skin‐diseased and skin‐healthy individuals. Medical students attending a lecture on ectoparasitic infestation indicated their change in itch and disgust compared to baseline on a 0 to 10 numerical rating scale (NRS) and specified which ectoparasitic infestation induced CI and disgust the most. Out of 132 participants, 87.9% reported CI, 84.1% disgust. The maximum intensity of CI was 3.68 ± 2.08 NRS (P < .0001), of disgust 3.80 ± 2.68 NRS (P < .0001), respectively. The CI and disgust correlated positively (rho 0.272; P = .002), but we also found that specific ectoparasitic infestations triggered rather itch than disgust and vice versa. Our results indicate that CI and disgust are coincident phenomena of distinct defense systems: CI is aimed to scrape off ectoparasites, disgust to prevent ingestion of pathogens. Furthermore, our data point to differences in CI and disgust between the sexes and skin‐healthy vs skin‐diseased participants.
... Another line of evidence for social theories of yawning come from functional neuroimaging studies: on the one hand, medial regions involved in motor imitation, empathy and perspective taking in VMPFC and Precuneus/superior temporal gyrus are implied in the processing of contagious yawning (Platek et al., 2003(Platek et al., , 2005Nahab et al., 2009). Like for the contagion of laughter, the mirror neuron system implied in the execution and observation of the same action and located in inferior frontal gyrus (di Pellegrino et al., 1992) is also recruited during contagious yawning (Arnott et al., 2009;Haker et al., 2013). ...
... Moreover, the neuronal underpinning for contagious laughter and yawning corroborate this latter point: both recruit brain networks implied in empathy, i.e., the mirror neuron system (di Pellegrino et al., 1992;Platek et al., 2003Platek et al., , 2005Arnott et al., 2009;Haker et al., 2013;McGettigan et al., 2015). Interestingly, the auditory mirror neuron system in particular contributes to contagious laughter (Billing et al., 2021), which can be an explanation for why laughter is particularly contagious in the auditory modality. ...
Article
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Laughter and yawning can both occur spontaneously and are highly contagious forms of social behavior. When occurring contagiously, laughter and yawning are usually confounded with a social situation and it is difficult to determine to which degree the social situation or stimulus itself contribute to its contagion. While contagious yawning can be reliably elicited in lab when no other individuals are present, such studies are more sparse for laughter. Moreover, laughter and yawning are multimodal stimuli with both an auditory and a visual component: laughter is primarily characterized as a stereotyped vocalization whereas yawning is a predominantly visual signal and it is not known to which degree the visual and auditory modalities affect the contagion of laughter and yawning. We investigated how these two sensory modalities contribute to the contagion of laughter and yawning under controlled laboratory conditions in the absence of a social situation that might confound their contagion. Subjects were presented with naturally produced laughter and yawning in three sensory modalities (audio, visual, audiovisual), and we recorded their reaction to these stimuli. Contagious responses differed for laughter and yawning: overall, laughter elicited more contagious responses than yawning, albeit mostly smiling rather than overt laughter. While the audiovisual condition elicited most contagious responses overall, laughter was more contagious in the auditory modality, and yawning was more contagious in the visual modality. Furthermore, laughter became decreasingly contagious over time, while yawning remained steadily contagious. We discuss these results based on the ontogenetic and phylogenetic trajectories of laughter and yawning.
... One common behavioural measure is contagious yawning (CY), which appears to fit the empathy framework because of four key findings: (i) human adults high on other measures of empathy show more CY [8]; (ii) humans with developmental and personality disorders in which empathy is impaired show diminished CY [8][9][10][11]; (iii) CY is positively biased by familiarity in humans (Homo sapiens) [12], chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) [13], bonobos (Pan paniscus) [14], gelada baboons (Theropithecus gelada) [15] and dogs [16][17][18], as is typical of other measures of empathy; and (iv) presented with a variety of body movements apes exclusively increase yawning in response to observed yawning, suggesting CY's high specificity [19,20]. Aiding this specificity, brain areas associated with the human mirror neuron system activate in humans viewing yawns [21][22][23], with mirror neurons having been implied as a proximate neural mechanism for empathy [24,25]. Thus, CY fits better with an empathy framework than with explanations in terms of imitation or behavioural facilitation. ...
Article
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Human empathy can extend to strangers and even other species, but it is unknown whether non-humans are similarly broad in their empathic responses. We explored the breadth and flexibility of empathy in chimpanzees, a close relative of humans. We used contagious yawning to measure involuntary empathy and showed chimpanzees videos of familiar humans, unfamiliar humans and gelada baboons (an unfamiliar species). We tested whether each class of stimuli elicited contagion by comparing the effect of yawn and control videos. After including previous data on the response to ingroup and outgroup chimpanzees, we found that familiar and unfamiliar humans elicited contagion equal to that of ingroup chimpanzees. Gelada baboons did not elicit contagion, and the response to them was equal to that of outgroup chimpanzees. However, the chimpanzees watched the outgroup chimpanzee videos more than any other. The combination of high interest and low contagion may stem from hostility towards unfamiliar chimpanzees, which may interfere with an empathic response. Overall, chimpanzees showed flexibility in that they formed an empathic connection with a different species, including unknown members of that species. These results imply that human empathic flexibility is shared with related species.
... In contrast, contagious yawns are elicited simply by sensing or even thinking about the action in others [11]. Unlike its spontaneous form, which appears evolutionarily older by its observed presence in all classes of vertebrates [12] and early onset in uterine development [13], contagious yawning appears to be a more recently derived behavior as evidenced by its presence in relatively few highly social species [2][3][4][5][6][7] and delayed ontogeny [14][15][16][17][18]. Research investigating contagious yawning has emphasized the influence of interpersonal and emotional-cognitive variables on its expression [4,5,[19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28], but there have been few attempts to combine theoretical frameworks when explaining both contagious and spontaneous effects. Due to the potential multifunctionality of yawning across species [12,29], however, recent reports on social primates have highlighted potentially important differences in yawn morphology or intensity [5,30,31]. ...
Article
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The thermoregulatory theory of yawning posits that yawns function to cool the brain in part due to counter-current heat exchange with the deep inhalation of ambient air. Consequently, yawning should be constrained to an optimal thermal zone or range of temperature, i.e., a thermal window, in which we should expect a lower frequency at extreme temperatures. Previous research shows that yawn frequency diminishes as ambient temperatures rise and approach body temperature, but a lower bound to the thermal window has not been demonstrated. To test this, a total of 120 pedestrians were sampled for susceptibly to self-reported yawn contagion during distinct temperature ranges and seasons (winter: 1.4 °C, n = 60; summer: 19.4 °C, n = 60). As predicted, the proportion of pedestrians reporting yawning was significantly lower during winter than in summer (18.3% vs. 41.7%), with temperature being the only significant predictor of these differences across seasons. The underlying mechanism for yawning in humans, both spontaneous and contagious, appears to be involved in brain thermoregulation.
... In social and clinical psychology, we have seen contagion spreading by mimicry and onto a neural basis of contagious behaviour (see for example Platek et al., 2005; Schürmann et al., 2005.). Frith and Frith (2006)have argued that it is the brain's mirror system that enables humans to share the thoughts of other agents, which according to a neuro-imageing study, helps in 'contagious yawning' (Haker et al., 2012). The contagious nature of human emotions can be explained by synchronization of brain activities of human test subjects, especially in the somatosensory cortices and visual and dorsal attention networks (Nummenmaa et al., 2012). ...
Article
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Metaphors are used often used to express emotions and value judgments – my lawyer is a shark and I had a whirlwind week – and can be used to create new categories – some financial assets perform well, whilst others are toxic. In finance, metaphors have been used to present messages of alarm in a soothing way such that their cause is not addressed, but instead, the solution becomes the focus of attention. The term contagion is relevant to the changes in the performance and regulatory framework of financial systems. In this paper we trace the emergence of the ancient term as it was adopted by medicine, biology, psychology and recently, into discourse on finance and economics. We show the influx of contagion at the word level and show how grammatical constructs, like modification and comparison, have been used around the term to explain and expand the concept of contagion. We examine some proceedings of the US Senate on contagion and financial systems to illustrate the ingress and use of this term. We also describe and present the findings of a prototype method for identifying metaphorical domains in the context of the word contagion.
... Yawning when seeing other people yawn has also been associated with activations in the same neural networks responsible for empathy and social skills, such as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex [9][10][11]. Finally, the mirror neuron system [12,13] is activated when a person views or hears a yawn [10,11,14], though the role this system plays in eliciting the actual contagious event remains unclear. ...
Article
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On the basis of observational and experimental evidence, several authors have proposed that contagious yawn is linked to our capacity for empathy, thus presenting a powerful tool to explore the root of empathy in animal evolution. The evidence for the occurrence of contagious yawning and its link to empathy, however, is meagre outside primates and only recently domestic dogs have demonstrated this ability when exposed to human yawns. Since dogs are unusually skilful at reading human communicative behaviors, it is unclear whether this phenomenon is deeply rooted in the evolutionary history of mammals or evolved de novo in dogs as a result of domestication. Here we show that wolves are capable of yawn contagion, suggesting that such ability is a common ancestral trait shared by other mammalian taxa. Furthermore, the strength of the social bond between the model and the subject positively affected the frequency of contagious yawning, suggesting that in wolves the susceptibility of yawn contagion correlates with the level of emotional proximity. Moreover, female wolves showed a shorter reaction time than males when observing yawns of close associates, suggesting that females are more responsive to their social stimuli. These results are consistent with the claim that the mechanism underlying contagious yawning relates to the capacity for empathy and suggests that basic building blocks of empathy might be present in a wide range of species.
... According to neurobiological (Haker, Kawohl, Herwig, & Rössler, 2013), psychological (Platek et al., 2005), and ethological findings (Campbell & de Waal, 2011;Norscia & Palagi, 2011;Palagi, Leone, Mancini, & Ferrari, 2009;Romero et al., 2010;Tan et al., 2017) yawn contagion reflects the most basal layer of empathy, which is reflexive bodily synchronization (e.g., see the "Russian Doll Model" in de Waal, 2008;Preston & de Waal, 2002). Yawn contagion can be reliably observed in naturalistic scenarios, which permits the collection of systematic data that is freed from artificial biases poten- tially induced in experimental settings (Bartholomew & Cirulli, 2014;Provine, 2005). ...
Chapter
Given that the cognitive and affective processes underlying empathy do not fossilize, studies of the empathic capacities of nonhuman primates provide us with a critical window through which we can explore the evolutionary origins of human empathy. Specifically, the comparative method provides an opportunity to determine which features of empathy are uniquely human and which are shared within the primate lineage. Here, we use the ethological approach to explore the affective and cognitive layers underlying empathy in primates. We review recent research exploring evidence for different layers of empathy, from the more basic forms such as yawn contagion and rapid facial mimicry, to more cognitively complex forms such as sympathetic concern and targeted helping. Combining evidence from both observational and experimental approaches, we argue that many of the core components underlying human empathy are deeply rooted in our primate past.
... The contagiousness of yawning has not been thoroughly studied. One hypothesis about contagious yawning involves the human mirror neuron system (MNS) which is activated when a person sees another person yawn [28]. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), subjects showed unilateral activation of the Brodmann's area 9, a portion of the right inferior frontal gyrus which is considered part of the MNS. ...
... In fact, Ferrari et al. (2003) have corroborated that mirror neurons also have jurisdiction over facial actions (e.g., biting, sucking). It is possible that this system may play a role in contagious itch, just as it is a possible neural mechanism in contagious yawning (Ikoma et al., 2006;Miller et al., 2012;Haker et al., 2013;Gallup and Eldakar, 2013). It still remains unclear if mirror neurons are actually activated during contagious itching. ...
Article
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All humans experience itch in the course of their life. Even a discussion on the topic of itch or seeing people scratch can evoke the desire to scratch. These events are coined “contagious itch” and are very common. We and others have shown that videos showing people scratching and pictures of affected skin or insects can induce itch in healthy persons and chronic itch patients. In our studies, patients with atopic dermatitis (AD) were more susceptible to visual itch cues than healthy. Also, personality traits like agreeableness and public self-consciousness were associated with induced scratching in skin patients, while neuroticism correlated with induced itch in healthy subjects. The underlying course of contagious itch is not yet fully understood. It is hypothesized that there are human mirror neurons that are active when we imitate actions and/or negative affect. Until now, there has been only limited data on the mechanisms of brain activation in contagious itch though. We have barely begun to understand the underlying physiological reactions and the triggering factors of this phenomenon. We summarize what we currently know about contagious itch and provide some suggestions what future research should focus on.
... Complementing these sociological studies, neuroscientists have highlighted the role of subcortical mirror neurons in facilitating emotional contagion, the dynamic spread of behaviors such as laughter and yawning (Haker, Kawohl, Herwig, & Rössler, 2013). Surprisingly, the scientific study of group phenomena is not new, and can be traced to the work of 18th century Austrian physician Franz Mesmer, best known for his concept of animal magnetism. ...
... Consistent with this mode of response activation, it has been hypothesized that contagious yawning is rooted within a perception-action mechanism tied to basic forms of empathic processing (Preston and de Waal, 2002). A growing literature shows an indirect association between contagious yawning and empathy, both behaviorally (Platek et al., 2003;Palagi et al., 2009;de Waal, 2011, 2014;Demuru and Palagi, 2012;Norscia and Palagi, 2011;de Waal, 2012;Romero et al., 2013Romero et al., , 2014Silva et al., 2012;Rundle et al., 2015; but see Bartholomew and Cirulli, 2014) and neurologically (Platek et al., 2005;Arnott et al., 2009;Nahab et al., 2009;Cooper et al., 2012;Haker et al., 2013; but see Schurmann et al., 2005;Gallup and Church, 2015). Studies investigating the developmental onset of contagious yawning in children also generally support this view (Anderson and Meno, 2003;Millen and Anderson, 2010;Hoogenhout et al., 2013), since contagious yawning develops in parallel with empathy related capacities (e.g., Perner and Lang, 1999). ...
Article
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While comparative research on contagious yawning has grown substantially in the past few years, both the interpersonal factors influencing this response and the sensory modalities involved in its activation in humans remain relatively unknown. Extending upon previous studies showing various in-group and status effects in non-human great apes, we performed an initial study to investigate how the political affiliation (Democrat vs. Republican) and status (high vs. low) of target stimuli influences auditory contagious yawning, as well as the urge to yawn, in humans. Self-report responses and a subset of video recordings were analyzed from 118 undergraduate students in the US following exposure to either breathing (control) or yawning (experimental) vocalizations paired with images of former US Presidents (high status) and their respective Cabinet Secretaries of Commerce (low status). The overall results validate the use of auditory stimuli to prompt yawn contagion, with greater response in the experimental than the control condition. There was also a negative effect of political status on self-reported yawning and the self-reported urge to yawn irrespective of the condition. In contrast, we found no evidence for a political affiliation bias in this response. These preliminary findings are discussed in terms of the existing comparative evidence, though we highlight limitations in the current investigation and we provide suggestions for future research in this area.
... Research has shown the involvement of the mirror neuron system during contagious yawning and supports the premise of a connection between this system and higher cognitive empathic functions, including mentalizing. Hence, it has been suggested that contagious yawning is based on a functional substrate of empathy (52). ...
Article
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In social animals, the fast detection of group members' emotional expressions promotes swift and adequate responses, which is crucial for the maintenance of social bonds and ultimately for group survival. The dot-probe task is a well-established paradigm in psychology, measuring emotional attention through reaction times. Humans tend to be biased toward emotional images, especially when the emotion is of a threatening nature. Bonobos have rich, social emotional lives and are known for their soft and friendly character. In the present study, we investigated (i) whether bonobos, similar to humans, have an attentional bias toward emotional scenes compared with conspecifics showing a neutral expression, and (ii) which emotional behaviors attract their attention the most. As predicted, results consistently showed that bonobos' attention was biased toward the location of the emotional versus neutral scene. Interestingly, their attention was grabbed most by images showing conspecifics such as sexual behavior, yawning, or grooming, and not as much-as is often observed in humans-by signs of distress or aggression. The results suggest that protective and affiliative behaviors are pivotal in bonobo society and therefore attract immediate attention in this species.
... e bulaşıcı esnemenin, sosyal bilişin bir diğer adıyla empatinin en ilkel hali olduğunu ileri sürmüşlerdir (Senju 2010). Bu alanda yapılmış olan bir beyin görüntüleme çalışması empati sürecinde önemli rolü olan ayna nöron etkinliğini göstermiş ve araştırmacılar sonuçlarını 'Esneme davranışı empati sürecinin bir parçasıdır' şeklinde yorumlamışlardır (Haker ve ark. 2013). ...
... Therapy revolving around the Mirror Neuron System has also been shown to be beneficial for individuals with emotional disorders and is thought to be related to fixing issues related to the social aspect of emotion that is lacking including understanding others and empathy (Ferrari & Rizzolatti, 2014). Persistent anxiety due to this phenomenon may also lead to insomnia or sleeplessness observed, which the MNS may relate to (Haker et al., 2013). Mirror Neurons are said to have an effect on depression independently, and this is likely true as well for CJD patients suffering from depressive tendencies/depression. ...
... However, intranasal oxytocin, believed to suppress stress and enhance empathy (Hurlemann et al., 2010), did not affect yawning per se, but increased awareness of the act in participants, which resulted in higher rate of efforts made to conceal it (Gallup and Church, 2015). Since the behavioral measure of emotional contagion (yawning) is easy to observe and quantify, contagious yawning seems to be a good model to study mirroring mechanism in the brain (Haker et al., 2013). ...
Article
Empathy is a phenomenon often considered dependent on higher-order emotional control and an ability to relate to the emotional state of others. It is, by many, attributed only to species having well-developed cortical circuits capable of performing such complex tasks. However, over the years, a wealth of data has been accumulated showing that rodents are capable not only of sharing emotional states of their conspecifics, but also of prosocial behavior driven by such shared experiences. The study of rodent empathic behaviors is only now becoming an independent research field. Relevant animal models allow precise manipulation of neural networks, thereby offering insight into the foundations of empathy in the mammalian brains. Here we review the data on empathic behaviors in rat and mouse models, their neurobiological and neurophysiological correlates, and the factors influencing these behaviors. We discuss how simple rodent models of empathy enhance our understanding of how brain controls empathic behaviors.
... This has been corroborated by studies revealing engagement in contagious yawning of the mirror neuron system (MNS), a system implicated in higher-level cognitive processing, such as empathy [24]. Functional MRI findings revealed activation of the right inferior frontal gyrus, a part of the MNS, when participants exhibited contagious yawning, thereby supporting the idea of empathetic yawning [25]. Furthermore, EEG findings have revealed that mu suppression on the EEG, an index utilized to represent MNS activation, was greater for participants viewing or hearing yawns than for controls [26]. ...
Article
The primary function of yawning is not fully understood. We report a case in which electrical stimulation of the putamen in the human brain consistently elicited yawning. A 46-year-old woman with intractable epilepsy had invasive depth electrode monitoring and cortical stimulation mapping as part of her presurgical epilepsy evaluation. The first two contacts of a depth electrode that was intended to sample the left insula were in contact with the putamen. Stimulation of these contacts at 6 mA and 8 mA consistently elicited yawning on two separate days. Engagement in arithmetic and motor tasks during stimulation did not result in yawning. When considering the role of the putamen in motor control and its extensive connectivity to cortical and brainstem regions, our findings suggest that it plays a key role in the execution of motor movements necessitated by yawning. Furthermore, given the role of the anterior insula in attention and focused tasks, activation of this area while engaged in arithmetic and motor tasks could inhibit the putaminal processing necessary for yawning. Many have hypothesized the function of yawning; however, it remains debatable whether yawning serves a primarily physiological or communicative function or perhaps both.
... Model-based interoception may also contribute to realization of certain interoceptive states when individuals replay past experiences, imagine hypothetical situations and empathize with others. For example, the insular cortex seems to possess mirror-neuron-like functions that support empathetic behaviour and understanding of others' feelings, which are then associated with physiological responses, such as crying when observing others crying, crying in grief, imagery of one's own and others' body sensations and yawning contagiousness [181][182][183][184][185]. Further support for this view comes from neuroimaging studies showing insula activity associated with music-induced feelings, art aesthetic judgement, interoceptive imagery and retrieval of highly arousal, aversive, danger or disgusting experiences that have induced physiological changes [186][187][188][189][190]. ...
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In the brain, the insular cortex receives a vast amount of interoceptive information, ascending through deep brain structures, from multiple visceral organs. The unique hierarchical and modular architecture of the insula suggests specialization for processing interoceptive afferents. Yet, the biological significance of the insula's neuroanatomical architecture, in relation to deep brain structures, remains obscure. In this opinion piece, we propose the Insula Hierarchical Modular Adaptive Interoception Control (IMAC) model to suggest that insula modules (granular, dysgranular and agranular), forming parallel networks with the prefrontal cortex and striatum, are specialized to form higher order interoceptive representations. These interoceptive representations are recruited in a context-dependent manner to support habitual, model-based and exploratory control of visceral organs and physiological processes. We discuss how insula interoceptive representations may give rise to conscious feelings that best explain lower order deep brain interoceptive representations, and how the insula may serve to defend the body and mind against pathological depression.
... e bulaşıcı esnemenin, sosyal bilişin bir diğer adıyla empatinin en ilkel hali olduğunu ileri sürmüşlerdir (Senju 2010). Bu alanda yapılmış olan bir beyin görüntüleme çalışması empati sürecinde önemli rolü olan ayna nöron etkinliğini göstermiş ve araştırmacılar sonuçlarını 'Esneme davranışı empati sürecinin bir parçasıdır' şeklinde yorumlamışlardır (Haker ve ark. 2013). ...
... Further evidence stems from studies in neuroscience that use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). These results suggest that the urge to yawn when observing others yawning is related to neural activity in those areas of the brain that are involved in assessing selfreferent information (Arnott et al. 2009, Brown et al. 2017, Cooper et al. 2012, Haker et al. 2013, Platek et al. 2005. ...
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Humans express facial mimicry across a variety of actions. This article explores a distinct example, contagious yawning, and the links to empathy and prosocial behavior. Prior studies have suggested that there is a positive link between empathy and the susceptibility to contagious yawning. However, the existing evidence has been sparse and contradictory. We present results from 2 laboratory studies conducted with 171 (Study 1) and 333 (Study 2) student volunteers. Subjects were video-recorded while watching muted videos of individuals yawning, scratching, or laughing. Empathy was measured using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index. Although subjects imitated all facial expressions to large extents, our studies show that only contagious yawning was related to empathy. Subjects who yawned in response to observing others yawn exhibited higher empathy values by half a standard deviation. However, we found no evidence that the susceptibility to contagious yawning is directly related to prosocial behavior.
... Většina studií využívající metodu funkční magnetické rezonance (fMRI), potvrzuje, že při nakažlivém zívání vzrůstá aktivita v oblastech mozku, kde se nacházejí zrcadlové neurony (např. Arnott et al., 2009;Haker, Kawohl, Herwig, & Rössler, 2012;Nahab, Hattori, Saad, & Hallett, 2009). Jiné studie (např. ...
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Objectives: The aim of this paper was to empirically verify the existence of relation between empathy and contagious yawning (i. e. yawning elicited by watching or thinking about yawning). Sample and settings: The research sample consists of 59 undergraduates. Contagious yawning, secretly recorded by the researcher, was elicited by watching a video stimulus. Empathy was then measured by Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RME) and Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). Hypotheses: On the basis of previous research, empathy is identified as a characteristic that can potentially affect contagious yawning. Statistical analysis: Output data were statistically analysed using multilinear regression model. Results: Empathy did not prove to significantly predict the frequency of contagious yawning. Authors present further personal dispositions that can be connected to contagious yawning. However, the social function of yawning is questioned. Study limitation: Lower number of participants and positively skewed data distribution can limit the interpretation of results presented.
... Yawn contagion occurs when a subject yawns in response to a triggering yawn emitted by another subject (Campbell, Carter, Proctor, Eisenberg, & de Waal, 2009;Provine, 1986Provine, , 2005. As a form of involuntary mimicry (Thompson & Richer, 2015), yawn contagion may be a form of emotional contagion, possibly involving the mirror neuron system (Brown et al., 2017;Haker, Kawohl, Herwig, & Rössler, 2013;Nahab, Hattori, Saad, & Hallett, 2009). Through the activation of this system, two individuals can nonconsciously share physiological and related affective states based on perceived motor patterns (Gallese, Keysers, & Rizzolatti, 2004). ...
Article
Yawn contagion, possibly a form of emotional contagion, occurs when a subject yawns in response to others' yawns. Yawn contagion has been reported in humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, geladas, wolves, and dogs. In these species, individuals form strong, long-term relationships and yawn contagion is highest between closely bonded individuals. This study focuses on the possible expression of yawn contagion in western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Gorillas share with geladas a similar basic social structure (one dominant male and several adult females with offspring) and differ from bonobos and chimpanzees, which live in multimale-multifemale societies. Gorillas stand out because they are spatially aggregated but show especially low levels of social affiliation. If the expression of yawn contagion is linked to the investment of animals in establishing long-term social relationships, the phenomenon should not be detected in gorillas (social relationship hypothesis). For the first time, we applied to the same subjects the naturalistic approach typically used in ethology (all occurrences behavioral sampling) and the experimental approach typically used in psychology (response to video stimuli). During the video demonstration (avatar yawn/control; unfamiliar gorilla yawn/control), we checked for the attentional state of the subjects. Anxiety-related self-directed behaviors were recorded in all conditions and settings. We failed to detect yawn contagion in both naturalistic and experimental settings, with yawning being possibly associated with anxiety during video shows (revealed by the increased frequency of self-directed behaviors). In conclusion, yawn contagion may be a socially modulated phenomenon that remains largely unexpressed when individuals share weak social affiliation.
... However, a novel contribution of the IMAC model is the extension of the allostasis concept to suggest that metaceptions also have the capacity to generate feelings and modify interoceptive states when individuals replay past experiences, imagine hypothetical situations, empathize with others, and empathize with internal motivational states of others. For example, the insular cortex seems to possess mirror-neuron like functions that support empathetic behavior and understanding of others' feelings, which are then associated with physiological responses, such as crying when observing others crying, crying in grief, imagery of one's own and others' body sensations, and yawn contagiousness [80][81][82][83][84]. Furthermore, insula function is associated with music-induced feelings, art aesthetic judgment, interoceptive imagery, and retrieval of highly arousal, aversive, or disgusting experiences that have induced physiological changes [85][86][87][88]. ...
Preprint
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The body sends interoceptive visceral information through deep brain structures to the cerebral cortex. The insula cortex, organized in hierarchical modules, is the major cortical region receiving interoceptive afferents and contains visceral topographic maps. Yet, the biological significance of the insula's modular architecture in relation to deep brain regions remains unsolved. In this opinion, we propose the Insula Hierarchical Modular Adaptive Interoception Control (IMAC) model to suggest that insula modules (granular, dysgranular and agranular subregions), forming networks with prefrontal (supplementary motor area, dorsolateral and ventromedial cortices) and striatum (posterior, dorsomedial and ventromedial) subregions, are specialized for higher-order interoceptive representations, recruited in a context-dependent manner to support habitual, model-based and exploratory adaptive behavior. We then discuss how insula interoceptive representations, or metaceptions, could give rise to conscious interoceptive feelings built up from low-order visceral representations and associated basic emotions located in deep interoceptive brain structures.
... However, these studies have been conducted on anesthetized individuals preventing a direct functional analysis. The successful and increasing use of functional MRI (fMRI) in awake dogs Canis lupus familiaris is promising (Andics & Miklósi, 2018;Czeibert et al., 2019;Haker et al., 2013) and may shed light on the neurobiological foundations of personality. ...
Thesis
Les mécanismes qui sous-tendent la personnalité animale (c.-à-d., les différences individuelles de comportement stables à travers le temps et les contextes) sont encore mal compris. Il a été suggéré que la personnalité pourrait émerger à partir de différences individuelles dans les réactions émotionnelles. Cette thèse a pour objectif d’étudier comment la tendance à l’exploration, l’un des traits de personnalité les plus étudiés, est liée aux différences individuelles d’émotions, à différentes classes d’âge chez deux rongeurs d’origine sauvage. Chaque chapitre aborde un composant d’une réaction émotionnelle (comportement, cognition et physiologie), afin d’évaluer la valence ou l’intensité de l’expérience émotionnelle. Tout d’abord, nous avons montré que le taux d’appels d’isolement pouvait être utilisé pour caractériser les profils émotionnels de jeunes souris domestiques, celui-ci étant stable durant trois jours et dans trois situations stressantes. Deuxièmement, nos résultats ont suggéré qu’une tendance plus forte à l’exploration pourrait être liée à une plus grande tendance à exprimer des états affectifs négatifs (c.-à-d., un biais de jugement plus négatif).Troisièmement, nous avons constaté que les souris glaneuses plus exploratrices étaient caractérisées par une réactivité plus forte du système sympathique, exprimée par des températures périphériques de la queue plus basses, peu de temps après une procédure de manipulation brève. Dans l'ensemble, les résultats de ce projet de recherche contribuent à la compréhension de la base émotionnelle des traits de personnalité et soulignent l'importance de prendre en compte l'individualité lors de l'évaluation des émotions.
... The study of negation from a psychological point of view is only of recent development. Much space has been given to its acquisition in development (Bellugi, 1967;Bloom, 1970;McNeill and McNeill, 1968;Nordmeyer and Frank, 2013; see also Dimroth, 2010), and its specific difficulty of comprehension with respect to affirmative structures (Fodor and Garrett, 1967;Gough, 1965;Haker et al., 2013;MacDonald and Just, 1989;Margolin and Abrams, 2009;Wason, 1959;Wason and Jones, 1963). However, none of these studies succeeded in tracing both a cognitive mapping of negation and a semantic understanding of how sentence polarity acts on language-derived representations. ...
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According to the embodied cognition perspective, linguistic negation may block the motor simulations induced by language processing. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was applied to the left primary motor cortex (hand area) of monolingual Italian and German healthy participants during a rapid serial visual presentation of sentences from their own language. In these languages, the negative particle is located at the beginning and at the end of the sentence, respectively. The study investigated whether the interruption of the motor simulation processes, accounted for by reduced motor evoked potentials (MEPs), takes place similarly in two languages differing on the position of the negative marker. Different levels of sentence concreteness were also manipulated to investigate if negation exerts generalized effects or if it is affected by the semantic features of the sentence. Our findings indicate that negation acts as a block on motor representations, but independently from the language and words concreteness level.
... The contagious yawn response (i.e., yawning in response to the perception of another individual's yawn) has been found to be positively associated with performance on self-face recognition and theory of mind stories [Platek, Critton, Myers, & Gallup Jr., 2003]. Additionally, viewing yawns was found to increase activity in the mirror neuron system [Haker, Kawohl, Herwig, & Rössler, 2013]. As a result, contagious yawning has been used in research studies as a proxy measure of empathy [Senju et al., 2007]. ...
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Research suggests that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have reduced empathy, as measured by an impaired contagious yawn response, compared to typically developing (TD) children. Other research has failed to replicate this finding, instead attributing this phenomenon to group differences in attention paid to yawn stimuli. A third possibility is that only a subgroup of children with ASD exhibits the impaired contagious yawn response, and that it can be identified biologically. Here we quantified blood concentrations of the “social” neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT) and evaluated yawning behavior and attention rates during a laboratory task in children with ASD (N = 34) and TD children (N = 30) aged 6–12 years. No group difference in contagious yawning behavior was found. However, a blood OXT concentration × group (ASD vs. TD) interaction positively predicted contagious yawning behavior (F1,50 = 7.4987; P = 0.0085). Specifically, blood OXT concentration was positively related to contagious yawning behavior in children with ASD, but not in TD children. This finding was not due to delayed perception of yawn stimuli and was observed whether attention paid to test stimuli and clinical symptom severity were included in the analysis or not. These findings suggest that only a biologically defined subset of children with ASD exhibits reduced empathy, as measured by the impaired contagious yawn response, and that prior conflicting reports of this behavioral phenomenon may be attributable, at least in part, to variable mean OXT concentrations across different ASD study cohorts. Autism Res 2019. © 2019 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Lay Summary People with autism may contagiously yawn (i.e., yawn in response to another's yawn) less often than people without autism. We find that people with autism who have lower levels of blood oxytocin (OXT), a hormone involved in social behavior and empathy, show decreased contagious yawning, but those who have higher blood OXT levels do not differ in contagious yawning from controls. This suggests that decreased contagious yawning may only occur in a biologically defined subset of people with autism.
... In the current study, we found that infants who did not demonstrate contagious yawning could discriminate yawning movement. Contagious yawning is related to the social brain regions such as the STS and the mirror-neuron systems 29 . A recent study showed that the primary motor cortex is the important region for contagious yawning rather than the mirror-neuron systems 30 . ...
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Yawning is contagious in human adults. While infants do not show contagious yawning, it remains unclear whether infants perceive yawning in the same manner as other facial expressions of emotion. We addressed this problem using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and behavioural experiments. We confirmed behaviourally that infants could discriminate between yawning and unfamiliar mouth movements. Furthermore, we found that the hemodynamic response of infants to a yawning movement was greater than that to mouth movement, similarly to the observations in adult fMRI study. These results suggest that the neural mechanisms underlying yawning movement perception have developed in advance of the development of contagious yawning.
... The well-known tendency of emotive breath patterns to spread À for example, contagious yawns -has been attributed to cortical mirror neurons that get activated in other people by sensory cues transmitted during shared empathic experiences. 37 However, according to Church's model of sympathetic brain-wave entrainment, the mirror neurons are triggered by the mediation of interpersonal brainwave resonance, and not simply as a sensory reflex. 14 In this vein, one lab study done at IHM has demonstrated that a heart coherence-naïve volunteer in sensory isolation can be entrained into a state of heart coherence when in the physical presence of several trained heart coherence practitioners (see link to group heart coherence video in resources). ...
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The field of energy medicine (EM) is perhaps the most controversial branch of integrative medicine: its core concept - the existence of an invisible healing energy – has not yet been validated by Western medicine, and the mechanism(s) of action of its techniques have not been fully elucidated. In this paper, these problems are addressed by first outlining the organization of the human subtle energy system, and noting which components of that structure (meridians, energy centers and biofield) are impacted by various EM techniques. Evidence regarding the existence of this “subtle anatomy” is then presented from three realms: basic science research into electromagnetic fields (EMF), subjective experiences of EM, and clairvoyant perceptions of EM in action. Secondly, EM’s mechanisms of action are explored by describing how these techniques alter energy dynamics and affect biologic processes, a subject that could be termed “energy physiology”, to parallel conventional medicine’s foundation in anatomy and physiology. Finally, research into “energy physiology” is proposed, focusing on unusual experiences that are not fully explained by the current mechanistic biomedical model, but which do have plausible and verifiable energy-based explanation. These subjects include phantom limb pain, subtle energy-induced oxidative stress, emotional entrainment in groups, and the invisible templates that guide cell growth and differentiation. Keywords: biofield, subtle energy, energy medicine, phantom pain, energy psychology
... e bulaşıcı esnemenin, sosyal bilişin bir diğer adıyla empatinin en ilkel hali olduğunu ileri sürmüşlerdir (Senju 2010). Bu alanda yapılmış olan bir beyin görüntüleme çalışması empati sürecinde önemli rolü olan ayna nöron etkinliğini göstermiş ve araştırmacılar sonuçlarını 'Esneme davranışı empati sürecinin bir parçasıdır' şeklinde yorumlamışlardır (Haker ve ark. 2013). ...
Article
The authors tested susceptibility to contagious itching, laughter, and yawning in 55 children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ages 8‐14, and 106 typically developing (TD) children, ages 5‐14. Children with ASD were less likely to yawn or laugh contagiously compared with TD peers, but showed increased susceptibility to contagious itching, under naturalistic conditions. Contagious yawning and laughter were positively correlated with emotional empathy in the TD group. In contrast, contagious itching showed no relationship to empathy, and was positively correlated with autism symptom severity in the ASD group. The authors explore the implications of these findings in terms of psychological theories about ASD.
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In light of ever-present partisan division in the US political system, it is critical that researchers gain a better under-standing of potential biological differences that exist between self-professed Democrats and Republicans. In the current pilot experiment, we examined differences within the human mirror neuron system (hMNS), a network linked to a host of social and emotional abilities, in a small group of self-identified Republicans and Democrats. We found clear differ-ences between these two groups with respect to resting-state brain connectivity within the hMNS. These neural differ-ences were not systematically related to differences in empathy. Our findings are consistent with the idea that other factors, such as one’s preferential type of social connectivity (broad vs. tight), may have driven the reported findings. These data provide novel insights regarding our knowledge of the biological basis of party identification, and suggest specific directions for future research.
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Yawning is a stereotyped action pattern that is prevalent across vertebrates. While there is growing consensus on the physiological functions of spontaneous yawning in neurovascular circulation and brain cooling, far less is known about how the act of yawning alters the cognition and behaviour of observers. By bridging and synthesizing a wide range of literature, this review attempts to provide a unifying framework for understanding the evolution and elaboration of derived features of yawning in social vertebrates. Recent studies in animal behaviour, psychology and neuroscience now provide evidence that yawns serve as a cue that improves the vigilance of observers, and that contagious yawning functions to synchronize and/or coordinate group activity patterns. These social responses to yawning align with research on the physiological significance of this behaviour, as well as the ubiquitous temporal and contextual variation in yawn frequency across mammals and birds. In addition, these changes in mental processing and behaviour resulting from the detection of yawning in others are consistent with variability in the expression of yawn contagion based on affinity and social status in primates. Topics for further research in these areas are discussed.
Article
According to the embodied cognition perspective, linguistic negation may block the motor simulations induced by language processing. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was applied to the left primary motor cortex (hand area) of monolingual Italian and German healthy participants during a rapid serial visual presentation of sentences from their own language. In these languages, the negative particle is located at the beginning and at the end of the sentence, respectively. The study investigated whether the interruption of the motor simulation processes, accounted for by reduced motor evoked potentials (MEPs), takes place similarly in two languages differing on the position of the negative marker. Different levels of sentence concreteness were also manipulated to investigate if negation exerts generalized effects or if it is affected by the semantic features of the sentence. Our findings indicate that negation acts as a block on motor representations, but independently from the language and words concreteness level.
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Yawning is highly contagious, yet both its proximate mechanism(s) and its ultimate causation remain poorly understood. Scholars have suggested a link between contagious yawning (CY) and sociality due to its appearance in mostly social species. Nevertheless, as findings are inconsistent, CY’s function and evolution remains heavily debated. One way to understand the evolution of CY is by studying it in hominids. Although CY has been found in chimpanzees and bonobos, but is absent in gorillas, data on orangutans are missing despite them being the least social hominid. Orangutans are thus interesting for understanding CY’s phylogeny. Here, we experimentally tested whether orangutans yawn contagiously in response to videos of conspecifics yawning. Furthermore, we investigated whether CY was affected by familiarity with the yawning individual (i.e. a familiar or unfamiliar conspecific and a 3D orangutan avatar). In 700 trials across 8 individuals, we found that orangutans are more likely to yawn in response to yawn videos compared to control videos of conspecifics, but not to yawn videos of the avatar. Interestingly, CY occurred regardless of whether a conspecific was familiar or unfamiliar. We conclude that CY was likely already present in the last common ancestor of humans and great apes, though more converging evidence is needed.
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Early detection of persons with first signs of emerging psychosis is regarded as a promising strategy to reduce the burden of the disease. In recent years, there has been increasing interest in early detection of psychosis and bipolar disorders, with a clear need for sufficient sample sizes in prospective research. The underlying brain network disturbances in individuals at risk or with a prodrome are complex and yet not well known. This paper provides the rationale and design of a prospective longitudinal study focused on at-risk states of psychosis and bipolar disorder. The study is carried out within the context of the Zurich Program for Sustainable Development of Mental Health services (Zürcher Impulsprogramm zur Nachhaltigen Entwicklung der Psychiatrie). Persons at risk for psychosis or bipolar disorder between 13 and 35 years of age are examined by using a multi-level-approach (psychopathology, neuropsychology, genetics, electrophysiology, sociophysiology, magnetic resonance imaging, near-infrared spectroscopy). The included adolescents and young adults have four follow-ups at 6, 12, 24, and 36 months. This approach provides data for a better understanding of the relevant mechanisms involved in the onset of psychosis and bipolar disorder, which can serve as targets for future interventions. But for daily clinical practice a practicable "early recognition" approach is required. The results of this study will be useful to identify the strongest predictors and to delineate a prediction model.
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In designing and evaluating human-robot interactions and interfaces, researchers often use a simulated robot due to the high cost of robots and time required to program them. However, it is important to consider how interaction with a simulated robot differs from a real robot; that is, do simulated robots provide authentic interaction? We contribute to a growing body of work that explores this question and maps out simulated-versus-real differences, by explicitly investigating empathy: how people empathize with a physical or simulated robot when something bad happens to it. Our results suggest that people may empathize more with a physical robot than a simulated one, a finding that has important implications on the generalizability and applicability of simulated HRI work. Empathy is particularly relevant to social HRI and is integral to, for example, companion and care robots. Our contribution additionally includes an original and reproducible HRI experimental design to induce empathy toward robots in laboratory settings, and an experimentally validated empathy-measuring instrument from psychology for use with HRI.
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Experimental evidence of contagious yawning has only been documented in four mammalian species. Here, we report the results from two separate experimental studies designed to investigate the presence of contagious yawning in a social parrot, the budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus). In Study 1, birds were paired in adjacent cages with and without visual barriers, and the temporal association of yawning was assessed between visual conditions. In Study 2, the same birds were exposed to video stimuli of both conspecific yawns and control behavior, and yawning frequency was compared between conditions. Results from both studies demonstrate that yawning is contagious. To date, this is the first experimental evidence of contagious yawning in a non-mammalian species. We propose that future research could use budgerigars to explore questions related to basic forms of empathic processing.
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Psychological, clinical and neurobiological findings endorse that empathic abilities are more developed in women than in men. Because there is growing evidence that yawn contagion is an empathy-based phenomenon, we expect that the female bias in the empathic abilities reflects on a gender skew in the responsiveness to others' yawns. We verified this assumption by applying a linear model on a dataset gathered during a 5 year period of naturalistic observations on humans. Gender, age and social bond were included in the analysis as fixed factors. The social bond and the receiver's gender remained in the best model. The rates of contagion were significantly lower between acquaintances than between friends and family members, and significantly higher in women than in men. These results not only confirm that yawn contagion is sensitive to social closeness, but also that the phenomenon is affected by the same gender bias affecting empathy. The sex skew, also found in other non-human species, fits with the female social roles which are likely to require higher empathic abilities (e.g. parental care, group cohesion maintenance, social mediation). The fact that female influence in social dynamics also relies on face-to-face emotional exchange raises concerns on the negative repercussions of having women's facial expressions forcibly concealed.
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Although deficits in cognitive empathy are well established in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the literature on emotional empathy, or emotional contagion, in individuals with ASD is sparse and contradictory. The authors tested susceptibility to contagious yawning and laughter in children with ASD ( n = 60) and typically developing (TD) children ( n = 60), ages 5–17 years, under various conditions, to elucidate factors that may affect emotional contagion in these populations. Although TD children showed equal amounts of emotional contagion across conditions, children with ASD were highly influenced by the familiarity of the target stimulus, as well as task instructions that encourage eye gaze to target. More specifically, children with ASD exhibited less contagious yawning and laughter than their TD peers except when their attention was explicitly directed to the eyes or (and even more so) when their parents served as the stimulus targets. The authors explore the implications of these findings for theories about the mechanisms underlying empathic deficits in ASD as well as the clinical implications of having parents involved in treatment.
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The overt and reflexive matching of behaviors among conspecifics has been observed in a growing number of social vertebrates, including avian species. In general, behavioral contagion—such as the spread of yawning—may serve important functions in group synchronization and vigilance behavior. Here, we performed an exploratory study to investigate yawn contagion among 10 captive juvenile ravens (Corvus corax), across two groups. Using observational methods, we also examined the contagiousness of three other distinct behaviors: stretching, scratching, and shaking. A total of 44 20 min observations were made across both groups, including 28 in the morning and 16 in the afternoon. The time and occurrence of all the behaviors from each bird were coded, and the temporal pattern of each behavior across both groups was then analyzed to assess the degree of social contagion. Overall, we found no evidence for contagious yawning, stretching, scratching, or shaking. However, yawns were relatively infrequent per observation (0.052 ± 0.076 yawns/bird) and thus experimental methods should be used to support this finding.
Chapter
The possibility that animals may have empathy has until recently received little attention. Part of the reason may have been excessive fear of anthropomorphism and a taboo on animal emotions. Change has come from studies of consolation behavior and yawn contagion in primates (and other mammals), the discovery of mirror neurons in macaques, as well as the first neuroscience on this phenomenon in rodents. The empathy hypothesis is strongly supported in that caring behavior is biased toward socially close partners, involves state matching (e.g. the other's distress causes distress in the observer), and is blocked when oxytocin receptors are blocked. This would lead one to agree with Darwin that “Many animals certainly sympathize with each other's distress or danger.” Expressions of empathy range from a core mechanism of emotional contagion to cognitive perspective taking and targeted helping. As for cooperation, the strange myth has taken hold that humans are unique in this regard, such as the claim that human cooperation represents a “huge anomaly” in the animal kingdom. This is an odd endpoint to our journey of cooperation research which began in the 1960s and 1970s with theories of kin selection and reciprocal altruism inspired by animal behavior. There is in fact compelling evidence that other primates are capable of suppressing competition, dealing with freeloaders, engaging in reciprocity, or developing a sense of fairness. All of these tendencies contribute to the highly developed cooperation one would expect from our close relatives.
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The skin and brain have a close bi-directional anatomical and functional connection. Historically, the skin-brain axis and the brain-skin axis have been well described. However, brain function in this context has only recently been demystified with the introduction of functional neuroimaging in dermatology. Functional neuroimaging, especially functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), allows indirect visualisation of brain function. This review looks back to the beginnings of functional neuroimaging in dermatology, summarises the currently available dermatology-related fMRI-studies and discusses the potential future role of fMRI as a stratifying tool in clinical dermatology and in the development of novel therapies. According to the main body of research made in this field, the focus is placed on experimental itch studies, which described the brain structures involved in itch processing, the regulation of the scratch response, contagious itch and itch suppression. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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360 psychology students were divided into 12 experimental groups and participated in a single experimental session. The yawn-evoking potency of variations in a 5-min series of 30 videotaped repetitions of a yawning face were compared with each other and with a series of 30 videotaped smiles to determine the ethological releasing stimulus for the fixed-action pattern of yawning and to understand the more general process of face detection. Animate video images of yawning faces in several axial orientations evoked yawns in more Ss than did featureless or smiling faces, and no single feature, such as a gaping mouth, was necessary to evoke yawns. The yawn recognition mechanism is neither axially specific nor triggered by an isolated facial feature. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Trauma survivors with PTSD show social interaction and relationship impairments. It is hypothesized that traumatic experiences lead to known PTSD symptoms, empathic ability impairment, and difficulties in sharing affective, emotional, or cognitive states. A PTSD group (N=16) and a nontraumatized Control group (N=16) were compared on empathic abilities, namely the Empathic Resonance Test, Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test, and Faux Pas Test. The Interpersonal Reactivity Index as a self-report measure of empathy and measures of non-social cognitive functions, namely the Verbal Fluency Test, the Five-Point Test, and the Stroop Test, were also administered. The PTSD group showed lower empathic resonance. No clear indications of other impairments in social cognitive functions were found. The PTSD group had significantly higher personal distress. Empathic resonance impairments did not correlate with subjective severity of PTSD symptomatology. This article discusses whether impaired empathic resonance in PTSD trauma survivors is a consequence of trauma itself or a protective coping strategy.
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Book synopsis: Yawning is a stereotyped phylogenetically ancient phenomenon that occurs in almost all vertebrates. As an emotional behavior and an expressive movement, yawning has many consequences; nevertheless, it has so far been poorly addressed in medical research and practice. Bringing together the latest research from many fields, this volume integrates current insights within embryology, ethology, neurophysiology, psychology, fMRI and pathology. The phylogenetic and ontogenetic aspects of yawning offer an interesting perspective on human development, and its occurrence in neurological diseases – an area explored by only a few investigators – may provide useful clinical information. This book will make valuable and fascinating reading to neurologists, sleep specialists, psychologists, ethologists and pharmacologists, as well as to anybody interested in uncovering the mystery of yawning.
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The parieto-frontal cortical circuit that is active during action observation is the circuit with mirror properties that has been most extensively studied. Yet, there remains controversy on its role in social cognition and its contribution to understanding the actions and intentions of other individuals. Recent studies in monkeys and humans have shed light on what the parieto-frontal cortical circuit encodes and its possible functional relevance for cognition. We conclude that, although there are several mechanisms through which one can understand the behaviour of other individuals, the parieto-frontal mechanism is the only one that allows an individual to understand the action of others 'from the inside' and gives the observer a first-person grasp of the motor goals and intentions of other individuals.
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Yawn contagion in humans has been proposed to be related to our capacity for empathy. It is presently unclear whether this capacity is uniquely human or shared with other primates, especially monkeys. Here, we show that in gelada baboons (Theropithecus gelada) yawning is contagious between individuals, especially those that are socially close, i.e., the contagiousness of yawning correlated with the level of grooming contact between individuals. This correlation persisted after controlling for the effect of spatial association. Thus, emotional proximity rather than spatial proximity best predicts yawn contagion. Adult females showed precise matching of different yawning types, which suggests a mirroring mechanism that activates shared representations. The present study also suggests that females have an enhanced sensitivity and emotional tuning toward companions. These findings are consistent with the view that contagious yawning reveals an emotional connection between individuals. This phenomenon, here demonstrated in monkeys, could be a building block for full-blown empathy.
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Despite a widespread familiarity with the often compelling urge to yawn after perceiving someone else yawn, an understanding of the neural mechanism underlying contagious yawning remains incomplete. In the present auditory fMRI study, listeners used a 4-point scale to indicate how much they felt like yawning following the presentation of a yawn, breath, or scrambled yawn sound. Not only were yawn sounds given significantly higher ratings, a trait positively correlated with each individual's empathy measure, but relative to control stimuli, random effects analyses revealed enhanced hemodynamic activity in the right posterior inferior frontal gyrus (pIFG) in response to hearing yawns. Moreover, pIFG activity was greatest for yawn stimuli associated with high as opposed to low yawn ratings and for control sounds associated with equally high yawn ratings. These results support a relationship between contagious yawning and empathy and provide evidence for pIFG involvement in contagious yawning. A supplemental figure for this study may be downloaded from http://cabn.psychonomic-journals.org/content/supplemental.
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Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) reportedly fail to show contagious yawning, but the mechanism underlying the lack of contagious yawning is still unclear. The current study examined whether instructed fixation on the eyes modulates contagious yawning in ASD. Thirty-one children with ASD, as well as 31 age-matched typically developing (TD) children, observed video clips of either yawning or control mouth movements. Participants were instructed to fixate to the eyes of the face stimuli. Following instructed fixation on the eyes, both TD children and children with ASD yawned equally frequently in response to yawning stimuli. Current results suggest that contagious yawning could occur in ASD under an experimental condition in which they are instructed to fixate on the yawning eyes.
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Whenever we observe a movement of a conspecific, our mirror neuron system becomes activated, urging us to imitate the observed movement. However, because such automatic imitation is not always appropriate, an inhibitive component keeping us from imitating everything we see seems crucial for an effective social behavior. This becomes evident from neuropsychological conditions like echopraxia, in which this suppression is absent. Here, we unraveled the neurodynamics underlying this proposed inhibition of automatic imitation by measuring and manipulating brain activity during the execution of a stimulus-response compatibility paradigm. Within the identified connectivity network, right middle/inferior frontal cortex sends neural input concerning general response inhibition to right premotor cortex, which is involved in automatic imitation. Subsequently, the fully prepared imitative response is sent to left opercular cortex that functions as a final gating mechanism for intentional imitation. We propose an informed neurocognitive model of inhibition of automatic imitation, suggesting a functional dissociation between automatic and intentional imitation.
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This study is the first to demonstrate that human yawns are possibly contagious to domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Twenty-nine dogs observed a human yawning or making control mouth movements. Twenty-one dogs yawned when they observed a human yawning, but control mouth movements did not elicit yawning from any of them. The presence of contagious yawning in dogs suggests that this phenomenon is not specific to primate species and may indicate that dogs possess the capacity for a rudimentary form of empathy. Since yawning is known to modulate the levels of arousal, yawn contagion may help coordinate dog-human interaction and communication. Understanding the mechanism as well as the function of contagious yawning between humans and dogs requires more detailed investigation.
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We sought to determine whether regions of extrastriate visual cortex could be activated in subjects viewing eye and mouth movements that occurred within a stationary face. Eleven subjects participated in three to five functional magnetic resonance imaging sessions in which they viewed moving eyes, moving mouths, or movements of check patterns that occurred in the same spatial location as the eyes or mouth. In each task, the stimuli were superimposed on a radial background pattern that continually moved inward to control for the effect of movement per se. Activation evoked by the radial background was assessed in a separate control task. Moving eyes and mouths activated a bilateral region centered in the posterior superior temporal sulcus (STS). The moving check patterns did not appreciably activate the STS or surrounding regions. The activation by moving eyes and mouths was distinct from that elicited by the moving radial background, which primarily activated the posterior-temporal-occipital fossa and the lateral occipital sulcus-a region corresponding to area MT/V5. Area MT/V5 was also strongly activated by moving eyes and to a lesser extent by other moving stimuli. These results suggest that a superior temporal region centered in the STS is preferentially involved in the perception of gaze direction and mouth movements. This region of the STS may be functionally related to nearby superior temporal regions thought to be involved in lip-reading and in the perception of hand and body movement.
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A fundamental question about the relationship between cognition and emotion concerns the neural substrate underlying emotional self-regulation. To address this issue, brain activation was measured in normal male subjects while they either responded in a normal manner to erotic film excerpts or voluntarily attempted to inhibit the sexual arousal induced by viewing erotic stimuli. Results demonstrated that the sexual arousal experienced, in response to the erotic film excerpts, was associated with activation in "limbic" and paralimbic structures, such as the right amygdala, right anterior temporal pole, and hypothalamus. In addition, the attempted inhibition of the sexual arousal generated by viewing the erotic stimuli was associated with activation of the right superior frontal gyrus and right anterior cingulate gyrus. No activation was found in limbic areas. These findings reinforce the view that emotional self-regulation is normally implemented by a neural circuit comprising various prefrontal regions and subcortical limbic structures. They also suggest that humans have the capacity to influence the electrochemical dynamics of their brains, by voluntarily changing the nature of the mind processes unfolding in the psychological space.
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What is the nature of our ability to understand and reason about the beliefs of others--the possession of a "theory of mind", or ToM? Here, we review findings from imaging and lesion studies indicating that ToM reasoning is supported by a widely distributed neural system. Some functional components of this system, such as language-related regions of the left hemisphere, the frontal lobes and the right temporal parietal cortex, are not solely dedicated to the computation of mental states. However, the system also includes a core, domain-specific component that is centred on the amygdala circuitry. We provide a framework in which impairments of ToM can be viewed in terms of abnormalities of the core system, the failure of a co-opted system that is necessary for performance on a particular set of tasks, or the absence of an experiential trigger for the emergence of ToM.
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There is disagreement in the literature about the exact nature of the phenomenon of empathy. There are emotional, cognitive, and conditioning views, applying in varying degrees across species. An adequate description of the ultimate and proximate mechanism can integrate these views. Proximately, the perception of an object's state activates the subject's corresponding representations, which in turn activate somatic and autonomic responses. This mechanism supports basic behaviors (e.g., alarm, social facilitation, vicariousness of emotions, mother-infant responsiveness, and the modeling of competitors and predators) that are crucial for the reproductive success of animals living in groups. The Perception-Action Model (PAM), together with an understanding of how representations change with experience, can explain the major empirical effects in the literature (similarity, familiarity, past experience, explicit teaching, and salience). It can also predict a variety of empathy disorders. The interaction between the PAM and prefrontal functioning can also explain different levels of empathy across species and age groups. This view can advance our evolutionary understanding of empathy beyond inclusive fitness and reciprocal altruism and can explain different levels of empathy across individuals, species, stages of development, and situations.
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How do we empathize with others? A mechanism according to which action representation modulates emotional activity may provide an essential functional architecture for empathy. The superior temporal and inferior frontal cortices are critical areas for action representation and are connected to the limbic system via the insula. Thus, the insula may be a critical relay from action representation to emotion. We used functional MRI while subjects were either imitating or simply observing emotional facial expressions. Imitation and observation of emotions activated a largely similar network of brain areas. Within this network, there was greater activity during imitation, compared with observation of emotions, in premotor areas including the inferior frontal cortex, as well as in the superior temporal cortex, insula, and amygdala. We understand what others feel by a mechanism of action representation that allows empathy and modulates our emotional content. The insula plays a fundamental role in this mechanism.
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A category of stimuli of great importance for primates, humans in particular, is that formed by actions done by other individuals. If we want to survive, we must understand the actions of others. Furthermore, without action understanding, social organization is impossible. In the case of humans, there is another faculty that depends on the observation of others' actions: imitation learning. Unlike most species, we are able to learn by imitation, and this faculty is at the basis of human culture. In this review we present data on a neurophysiological mechanism--the mirror-neuron mechanism--that appears to play a fundamental role in both action understanding and imitation. We describe first the functional properties of mirror neurons in monkeys. We review next the characteristics of the mirror-neuron system in humans. We stress, in particular, those properties specific to the human mirror-neuron system that might explain the human capacity to learn by imitation. We conclude by discussing the relationship between the mirror-neuron system and language.
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Six adult female chimpanzees were shown video scenes of chimpanzees repeatedly yawning or of chimpanzees showing open-mouth facial expressions that were not yawns. Two out of the six females showed significantly higher frequencies of yawning in response to yawn videos; no chimpanzees showed the inverse. Three infant chimpanzees that accompanied their mothers did not yawn at all. These data are highly reminiscent of the contagious yawning effects reported for humans. Contagious yawning is thought to be based on the capacity for empathy. Contagious yawning in chimpanzees provides further evidence that these apes may possess advanced self-awareness and empathic abilities.
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Empathy is the ability to experience and understand what others feel without confusion between oneself and others. Knowing what someone else is feeling plays a fundamental role in interpersonal interactions. In this paper, we articulate evidence from social psychology and cognitive neuroscience, and argue that empathy involves both emotion sharing (bottom-up information processing) and executive control to regulate and modulate this experience (top-down information processing), underpinned by specific and interacting neural systems. Furthermore, awareness of a distinction between the experiences of the self and others constitutes a crucial aspect of empathy. We discuss data from recent behavioral and functional neuroimaging studies with an emphasis on the perception of pain in others, and highlight the role of different neural mechanisms that underpin the experience of empathy, including emotion sharing, perspective taking, and emotion regulation.
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Diese Übersicht beschreibt Prozesse, welche dem komplexen Phänomen der menschlichen Empathie zugrunde liegen. Automatische, reflexartige Prozesse wie physiologische Ansteckung und Handlungsspiegelung werden über das Spiegelneuronensystem vermittelt und stellen eine Grundlage für die Weiterverarbeitung sozialer Signale dar. Im sozialen Kontakt entsteht damit auf der körperlichen Ebene eine direkte Verbindung zweier Individuen. Diese Verbindung besteht auf der gleichzeitigen Aktivierung gemeinsamer motorischer Repräsentationen. Auf implizite Art werden die so geteilten Eindrücke durch individuelle Assoziationen im limbischen und vegetativen System zu einem affektiven Zustand. Die hier beschriebenen Prozesse werden Soziophysiologie genannt. Durch kontrolliert-reflektierende, selbst-referentielle, d.h. auf die persönliche Innenwelt gerichtete (Weiter-)Verarbeitung solcher sozialen Signale, entstehen schliesslich explizite Repräsentationen des Bewusstseins von Anderen. Diese höhergradigen Prozesse nennen wir soziale Kognition. Durch das Zusammenspiel der verschiedenen Prozesse entsteht das Phänomen der menschlichen Empathiefähigkeit.
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Background Resonance is the phenomenon of unconsciously mirroring the motor actions of another person. Beside autism and schizophrenia psychopathic personality traits are associated with empathy dysfunction. Methods We explore empathic resonance in terms of contagion by laughing and yawning in a group of offenders with psychopathic traits. Offenders with psychopathic traits (n = 12) and matched controls (n = 10) were video-taped while watching short video sequences of yawning, laughing or neutral faces. They were rated regarding contagion. Further, we assessed a self-report on psychopathy and on empathic tendencies. Results Compared to the control group, the offenders showed significantly less contagion and less self-reported empathic tendencies. Individuals who rated themselves as more empathic showed more contagion. Conclusions The observed reduced resonance in terms of contagion may illuminate the cold-heartedness, with which some psychopathic offenders treat their victims: When embodied experiencing of other’s physical and emotional situation is missing, a natural inhibition of violence may be overcome. The small sample size limits the generalisability of these findings.
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In area F5 of the monkey premotor cortex there are neurons that discharge both when the monkey performs an action and when he observes a similar action made by another monkey or by the experimenter. We report here some of the properties of these 'mirror' neurons and we propose that their activity 'represents' the observed action. We posit, then, that this motor representation is at the basis of the understanding of motor events. Finally, on the basis of some recent data showing that, in man, the observation of motor actions activate the posterior part of inferior frontal gyrus, we suggest that the development of the lateral verbal communication system in man derives from a more ancient communication system based on recognition of hand and face gestures.
Book
Reviews the book, Play, Dreams and Imitation in Childhood by Jean Piaget (1951). The current work by Piaget is another stimulating and provocative contribution to the literature on the development of children's thinking. In this well-translated volume, Piaget has as his basic goal an explanation of the evolution of "representative activity," which is "characterized by the fact that it goes beyond the present, extending the field of adaptation both in space and in time." Such an activity is essential in reflective thought as well as in operational thought. Two theses are presented by Piaget in the book: (a) the transition from rudimentary, primitive, and situational assimilation of experience to the operational and reflective adaptation of experience can be studied by the analysis of imitative behavior and play activity of the child from very early months of the life; and (b) various forms of mental activity--imitation, symbolic activity, and cognitive representation--are interacting. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Yawning was induced by instructing subjects to “think about yawning.” Yawns were consistent in duration (X = 5.9 s), periodic (X interyawn interval = 68.3 s), and within-subject stability in yawn duration and frequency was maintained for at least several weeks. These and other characteristics qualified yawning as a stereotyped action pattern. Although visually observed yawns were potent yawn releasing stimuli, “thinking about” or reading about yawning also elicited yawning and were additional vectors for its “infectiousness.” The respiratory, stretching and “imitative” aspects of yawning were also evaluated.
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The motor system has been intensively studied using the emerging neuroimaging technologies over the last twenty years. These include early applications of positron emission tomography of brain perfusion, metabolic rate and receptor function, as well as functional magnetic resonance imaging, tractography from diffusion weighted imaging, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. Motor system research has the advantage of the existence of extensive electrophysiological and anatomical information from comparative studies which enables cross-validation of new methods. We review the impact of neuroimaging on the understanding of diverse motor functions, including motor learning, decision making, inhibition and the mirror neuron system. In addition, we show how imaging of the motor system has supported a powerful platform for bidirectional translational neuroscience. In one direction, it has provided the opportunity to study safely the processes of neuroplasticity, neural networks and neuropharmacology in stroke and movement disorders and offers a sensitive tool to assess novel therapeutics. In the reverse direction, imaging of clinical populations has promoted innovations in cognitive theory, experimental design and analysis. We highlight recent developments in the analysis of structural and functional connectivity in the motor system; the advantages of integration of multiple methodologies; and new approaches to experimental design using formal models of cognitive-motor processes.
Article
The aim of this review is to describe sociophysiological and social cognitive processes that underlie the complex phenomenon of human empathy. Automatic reflexive processes such as physiological contagion and action mirroring are mediated by the mirror neuron system. They are a basis for further processing of social signals and a physiological link between two individuals. This link comprises simultaneous activation of shared motor representations. Shared representations lead implicitly via individual associations in the limbic and vegetative system to a shared affective state. These processes are called sociophysiology. Further controlled- reflective, self-referential processing of those social signals leads to explicit, conscious representations of others' minds. Those higher-order processes are called social cognition. The interaction of physiological and cognitive social processes lets arise the phenomenon of human empathy.
Article
To trace development of contagious yawning, 87 children aged 2 to 11 years were tested in two putative yawn-inducing situations. Videotaped yawns did not induce yawning in children below 5 years. Reading or listening to a story about yawning had no effect before 6 years. After these ages, the probability of yawning in response to both types of stimuli increased progressively throughout childhood. Contagious yawning probably involves different mechanisms to those operating in neonatal imitation of mouth movements.
Article
There is converging evidence that the observation of an action activates a corresponding motor representation in the observer through a 'mirror-matching' mechanism. However, research on such 'shared representations' of perception and action has widely neglected the question of how we can distinguish our own motor intentions from externally triggered motor representations. By investigating the inhibition of imitative response tendencies, as an index for the control of shared representations, we can show that self-other distinction plays a fundamental role in the control of shared representations. Furthermore, we demonstrate that overlapping brain activations can be found in the anterior fronto-median cortex (aFMC) and the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) area for the control of shared representations and complex social-cognitive tasks, such as mental state attribution. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment, we functionally dissociate the roles of TPJ and aFMC during the control of shared representations. Finally, we propose a hypothesis stating that the control of shared representations might be the missing link between functions of the mirror system and mental state attribution.
Article
Resonance is the phenomenon of one person unconsciously mirroring the motor actions as basis of emotional expressions of another person. This shared representation serves as a basis for sharing physiological and emotional states of others and is an important component of empathy. Contagious laughing and contagious yawning are examples of resonance. In the interpersonal contact with individuals with schizophrenia we can often experience impaired empathic resonance. The aim of this study is to determine differences in empathic resonance-in terms of contagion by yawning and laughing-in individuals with schizophrenia and healthy controls in the context of psychopathology and social functioning. We presented video sequences of yawning, laughing or neutral faces to 43 schizophrenia outpatients and 45 sex- and age-matched healthy controls. Participants were video-taped during the stimulation and rated regarding contagion by yawning and laughing. In addition, we assessed self-rated empathic abilities (Interpersonal Reactivity Index), psychopathology (Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale in the schizophrenia group resp. Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire in the control group), social dysfunction (Social Dysfunction Index) and executive functions (Stroop, Fluency). Individuals with schizophrenia showed lower contagion rates for yawning and laughing. Self-rated empathic concern showed no group difference and did not correlate with contagion. Low rate of contagion by laughing correlated with the schizophrenia negative syndrome and with social dysfunction. We conclude that impaired resonance is a handicap for individuals with schizophrenia in social life. Blunted observable resonance does not necessarily reflect reduced subjective empathic concern.
Article
We conducted a slow event-related fMRI experiment with naïve subjects' passively viewing yawn and various other control videos along with correlative behavioral testing. Specifically associated with the viewing of the contagious yawn was an area of activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. These findings suggest a role for the prefrontal cortex in the processing of contagious yawning, while demonstrating a unique automaticity in the processing of contagious motor programs which take place independently of mirror neuron networks.
Article
Yawning is a phylogenetically and ontogenetically old reflex that occurs under somatic conditions which seem to be characterized by a reduction of brain metabolism. There is a reasonable support for the view that yawning originated as a self-adjusting mechanism of the organism, a homeostatic reflex which operates through the tonic contraction of large muscle groups and temporarily improves circulation in general and blood flow to the brain in particular. The principle psychological reasons for yawning are boredom and unconscious imitation. Boredom is an affect characterized by an extraverted attitude. Unconscious imitation requires transferring interest to something in the outside world. Yawning is a signal that the person is making an effort to maintain contact with the outside world. Psychotic persons yawn rarely, except when suffering from organic brain syndrome. Spontaneous yawning in a psychotic particularly a schizophrenic, individual may be a signal that he is in an accessible mood. When yawning is induced experimentally by pharmacosedation, the responses of schizophrenic subjects differ significantly from those of psychotic subjects with structural brain lesions. In persons with psychiatric conditions, yawning may assume the value of a clinical symptom with diagnostic and prognostic implications.
Article
Incidental fetal yawning movements can rarely be observed during real-time ultrasonographic examination. In this report we document repetitive fetal yawning movements in a 27-week fetus over a 7-min period. Each episode lasted for 4–6 s, and the intervals between them varied from 21 to 195 s. This case demonstrated that fetal yawning, a complex involuntary behavioral reflex, is present in its full extent during the second half of pregnancy. Copyright © 1995 International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Article
In area F5 of the monkey premotor cortex there are neurons that discharge both when the monkey performs an action and when he observes a similar action made by another monkey or by the experimenter. We report here some of the properties of these 'mirror' neurons and we propose that their activity 'represents' the observed action. We posit, then, that this motor representation is at the basis of the understanding of motor events. Finally, on the basis of some recent data showing that, in man, the observation of motor actions activate the posterior part of inferior frontal gyrus, we suggest that the development of the lateral verbal communication system in man derives from a more ancient communication system based on recognition of hand and face gestures.
Article
Neuropsychology has customarily taken a molecular and myopic view of executive functioning, concentrating largely on those proximal processes of which it may be comprised. Although commendable as a starting point, such an approach can never answer the question, "Why executive functioning?" The present paper encourages neuropsychologists to contemplate the longer-term, functional nature of the executive functions (EFs), using an evolutionary perspective. For purely illustrative purposes, a previously developed model of the EFs is briefly presented and is then examined from an evolutionary perspective. That model views the EFs as forms of behavior-to-the-self that evolved from overt (public) to covert (private) responses as a means of self-regulation. That was necessary given the interpersonal competition that arises within this group-living species. The EFs serve to shift the control of behavior from the immediate context, social others, and the temporal now to self-regulation by internal representations regarding the hypothetical social future. The EFs seem to meet the requirements of a biological adaptation, being an improbable complex design for a purpose that exists universally in humans. Discovering the adaptive problems that the EFs evolved to solve offers an invaluable research agenda for neuropsychology lest that agenda be resolved first by other scientific disciplines. Some adaptive problems that the EFs may have evolved to solve are then considered, among them being social exchange (reciprocal altruism or selfish cooperation), imitation and vicarious learning as types of experiential theft, mimetic skill (private behavioral rehearsal) and gestural communication, and social self-defense against such theft and interpersonal manipulation. Although clearly speculative at the moment, these proposals demonstrate the merit of considering the larger adaptive problems that the EFs evolved to solve. Taking the evolutionary stance toward the EFs would achieve not only greater insight into their nature, but also into their assessment and into those larger adaptive capacities that may be diminished through injury or developmental impairment toward that system.
Article
What are the neural bases of action understanding? Although this capacity could merely involve visual analysis of the action, it has been argued that we actually map this visual information onto its motor representation in our nervous system. Here we discuss evidence for the existence of a system, the 'mirror system', that seems to serve this mapping function in primates and humans, and explore its implications for the understanding and imitation of action.