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Individual differences in local gray matter density are associated with differences in affective and cognitive empathy

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... Cognitive empathy (closely related to 'Theory of Mind') is the process of adopting someone else's perspective and understanding what they are feeling (Henry, von Hippel, Molenberghs, Lee, & Sachdev, 2016;Kanske, Böckler, Trautwein, & Singer, 2015;Preckel et al., 2018;Reniers, Corcoran, Drake, Shryane, & Völlm, 2011;Shamay-Tsoory, Aharon-Peretz, & Perry, 2009). There are meaningful individual-differences in empathy in the population, such that some people are more or less empathetic than others, and this is true for both the affective and cognitive components of empathy (Cox et al., 2011;Davis, 1983;Eres, Decety, Louis, & Molenberghs, 2015;Henry et al., 2016;Leiberg & Anders, 2006;Marsh, 2018;Reniers et al., 2011;Valk et al., 2017). ...
... In healthy participants, there is strong evidence that distinct functional neural networks are implicated in the cognitive versus affective components of empathy (Cox et al., 2011;Kanske et al., 2015;Preckel et al., 2018;Tholen, Trautwein, Böckler, Singer, & Kanske, 2020). Indeed, individual-differences in these two types of empathy are even related to measurable differences in brain structure in addition to brain function (Eres et al., 2015;Valk et al., 2017). Further, deficits in cognitive and affective empathy are doubly dissociated in neuropsychological patients (Corradi-Dell'Acqua et al., 2020;Shamay-Tsoory et al., 2009). ...
... For example, QCAE responses show convergent validity with other empathy measures (e.g., Basic Empathy Scale; Jolliffe & Farrington, 2006), and show construct validity in their associations with other related factors, such as psychopathy, aggression, and moral reasoning (Reniers et al., 2011;Yoder & Decety, 2014). Furthermore, self-reported cognitive versus affective empathy as measured via the QCAE are differentially associated with differences in brain structure (i.e., gray matter density differences) in areas known to be implicated in the different components of empathy (Eres et al., 2015), as well as differences in electrical brain activity during reasoning about prosocial and antisocial actions (Yoder & Decety, 2014). ...
Article
Empathy is an important psychological process. It consists of two dissociable components: cognitive empathy (adopting another's perspective and understanding their emotions), and affective empathy (the vicarious experiences of another's emotions). Here we examined individual differences in cognitive and affective empathy, and how they were related to two different aspects of attentional control: focusing and shifting. A sample of 299 adult participants completed psychometrically validated questionnaires, the Attentional Control Scale and the Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy. Individuals who reported a greater ability to shift their attention in everyday life exhibited higher levels of cognitive but not affective empathy, whereas individuals who reported greater ability to focus their attention demonstrated lower levels of affective but not cognitive empathy. This reveals how cognitive-attentional processes are selectively related to core social and emotional functioning, highlighting the importance of considering these distinct sub-processes of empathy and of attentional control.
... Similarly, brain activity is stimulated when one imagines, anticipates or observes pain in others (Shirtcliff et al. 2009), provoking emotion-driven body-related changes "as if" the person had experienced the pain directly themselves (Damasio 2001). Several studies have demonstrated that affective and cognitive empathy emanate from different areas of the brain, confirming early theoretical models for understanding empathy as two distinct processes (Eres et al. 2015;Fan et al. 2011;Shamay-Tsoory et al. 2009). ...
... Empathy has long been conceptualized to include two elements: a vicarious emotional process (Hume 1777;Keefe 1976) in which the individual feels the pain and suffering of another "as if" they experienced it themselves (Damasio 2001); and a cognitive process (Kant 1788;Rogers 1957) in which the individual perceives and understands the view of another as if one were that person but without ever losing the "as if" condition (Rogers 1957). These elements of empathy have recently been confirmed as involving differing neuro-processes resulting in varying physiological and emotional reactions (Eres et al. 2015;Fan et al. 2011). In recent archival scholarship, the concept of radical empathy (Caswell and Cifor 2016) has been helpfully introduced as a means for advancing the great potential for archives to provoke change in the aid of social justice (Duff et al. 2013). ...
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There is growing awareness in archival communities that working with records that contain evidence of human pain and suffering can result in unsettling emotions for archivists. One important finding of this work, however, is the considerable variability in not only the nature of responses, but also the nature of records that provoke emotional responses. Using in-depth qualitative interviews with 20 archivists from across Canada and one from the United States, and employing grounded theory methodology, this study sought to better understand the nature of emotional responses and factors associated with distress. Archivists described a wide range of reactions including shock, intrusive thoughts, profound senses of anger, sadness and despair, and ultimately at times disrupted functioning in personal and occupational spheres. One factor that has been associated with increasing vulnerability to distress in other occupational groups is empathic engagement, which is understood to have two elements: a vicarious emotional process and a cognitive process. This article explores the impact of personal connections and the nature of empathic engagement between archivists, donors, community researchers, and the records themselves on emotional response.
... Accounts of empathy most often distinguish between cognitive and affective components ( [1,3,[10][11][12][13]; for an additional motivational component, see [14]); hence we consider both types of empathic responding here. Cognitive empathy is defined as being_related to an individual's capacity to adopt the perspective of another person and thus strongly depends on mentalizing abilities. ...
... A key element of emotional empathy, therefore, consists of the sharing of emotions, which makes it distinct from related concepts such as sympathy, empathic concern, and compassion (see [2], for details). Support for a conceptual distinction between cognitive and emotional empathy is revealed in behavioral [15][16][17], neural [18][19][20], brain morphological [12,21], and genetic [22,23] findings. Although cognitive and emotional empathy are supposedly distinct (i.e., separate constructs), they are not conceptualized as independent. ...
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Accounts of empathy distinguish between cognitive (attribution of mental states to a social target) and emotional (sharing of emotions with a social target) empathy. To date, however, little is known about whether and how (interactions between) person perceptions, situational characteristics, and the observer-target relationship affect these constructs. The current study hence investigated (a) how the perceived warmth and competence of different social targets relate to both types of empathy, (b) whether there are differences in empathic responding to positive vs. negative scenarios, and (c) the impact of identification with the social targets. Eighty-nine participants rated cognitive and emotional empathy regarding four stereotypical target characters (student, elderly person, businessperson, alcoholic person) facing diverse positive and negative events. They also rated how warm and competent these characters appeared to them and how strongly they identified with the social targets. Results for cognitive and emotional empathy were partly overlapping, but demonstrated several significant differences, thereby demonstrating the need to investigate the two concepts separately. Notably, stereotypes of warmth predicted both cognitive and emotional empathic responses more strongly in desirable than in undesirable scenarios, which may relate to greater freedom of response to positive (rather than negative) social outcomes permitted by society. Our data show that scenario valence mattered even more for cognitive (than for emotional) empathy because it additionally moderated the effects of perceived competence and social identification. Finally, both cognitive and emotional empathy increased as a positive function of social identification, and social identification moderated effects exerted by perceived warmth and competence (yet differently for the two types of empathy investigated). Together, these findings speak to empathic responses arising from a complex interplay between perceptions (i.e., warmth and competence), scenario valence, and social identification.
... This finding is partly in accordance with results from Fan et al. (2011) who found the anterior part of the dmPFG to be significantly involved in evaluative empathy. Interestingly and further supporting the role of this anterior dmPFG region in cognitive empathy, the gray matter density of this region shows a positive correlation with self-report measures tapping cognitive empathy (Banissy et al., 2012;Eres et al., 2015). Digging deeper into cognitive empathy, we observed stronger convergence in this anterior part for cognitive empathy for pain than for cognitive empathy for emotions. ...
... empathy, mainly defined as taking over the perspective of another person and inferring how the other person is feeling, is associated with consistent activation of the anterior part of the left anterior dorso-medial prefrontal gyrus (dmPFG) and the left supramarginal gyrus (SMG). Both regions are associated with perspective-taking in social situations(Banissy et al., 2012;Eres, Decety, Louis, & Molenberghs, 2015;Fan et al., 2011) and self-other distinction (van der Heiden, Scherpiet, Konicar, Birbaumer, & Veit, 2013) (see ...
Article
Empathy is a multidimensional construct including affective and cognitive components while maintaining the distinction between one-self and others. Our meta-analyses focused on shared and distinct networks underlying cognitive (taking somebody else’s perspective in emotional/painful situations) and affective (self-referentially feeling somebody else’s emotions/pain) empathy for various states including painful and emotional situations. Furthermore, a comparison with direct pain experience was carried out. For cognitive empathy, consistent activation in the anterior dorsal medial frontal gyrus (dmPFG) and the supramarginal gyrus (SMG) occurred. For affective empathy, convergent activation of the posterior dmPFG and the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) was found. Consistent activation of the anterior insula (AI), the anterior dmPFG and the SMG was observed for empathy for pain, while convergent recruitment of the temporo-parietal junction, precuneus, posterior dmPFG, and the IFG was revealed in the meta-analysis across empathy for emotion experiments. The AI and the dmPFG/mid-cingulate cortex (MCC) showed overlapping as well as distinct neural activation for pain processing and empathy for pain. Taken together, we were able to show difference in the meta-analytic networks across cognitive and affective empathy as well as for pain and empathy processing. Based on the current results, distinct functions along the midline structures of the brain during empathy processing are apparent. Our data are lending further support for a multidimensional concept of empathy.
... Ainsi, si l'empathie é motionnelle repose sur l'activation de l'insula et du cortex cingulaire anté rieur comme l'indique l'ensemble des é tudes de neuro-imagerie [33,51,56], elle n'apparaît pas indispensable à l'é valuation clinique de la douleur par les mé decins et autres professionnels de la santé , ni même à la prestation de soins approprié s. ...
Article
Résumé L’empathie a bonne presse. Elle est reconnue pour avoir un impact positif dans la pratique clinique. Cependant, la profession médicale se débat pour parvenir à un équilibre entre la distance clinique et l’empathie. Trop de sensitivité aux émotions exprimées par les patients, sans régulation appropriée, peut conduire à de l’anxiété, au stress et à une détresse personnelle chez les médecins, nuisant à leur bien-être et pouvant être au détriment de leur fonctionnement cognitif. Trop peu d’empathie pourrait mener à sous-estimer la douleur des patients et à de moins bonnes relations avec eux. Cependant à mesure que le champ de l’empathie se développe, le manque de cohérence conceptuelle et de clarté entrave les progrès. Dans certains cas, l’utilisation du terme même d’empathie, par nature multidimensionnelle et interpersonnelle, n’a guère de valeur théorique ou clinique ajoutée. Les travaux récents en neuro-imagerie fonctionnelle avec des médecins et des professionnels de la santé mettent en lumière les mécanismes neurocognitifs qui sous-tendent la sensibilité interpersonnelle, l’empathie et la motivation pour se soucier de l’autre. L’article conclut par une perspective nuancée et plus sobre du rôle de l’empathie en médecine et propose que cultiver le souci de l’autre est plus important que de partager l’état émotionnel d’autrui ou de se mettre à sa place.
... A meta-analysis of fMRI studies revealed that cognitive (vs. affective) empathy is most often associated with activity in the middle cingulate cortex (Fan et al., 2011); and this result is consolidated by a recent study where measures of gray matter density were placed in relation to scores from an established measure of cognitive empathy (Eres, Decety, Louis, & Molenberghs, 2015). ...
Article
Mindfulness meditation usually takes place as personal, introspective activity. It is not known if this practice activates the brain differently when done alone or with someone else. Sixteen couples of expert meditators performed mindfulness-oriented meditation (MOM) and instructed mind-wandering (IMW) tasks in two conditions: once sitting in the same room (SR) and once in two different rooms (DR). Spontaneous electroencephalographic (EEG) data was collected during 7-minute recording sessions in the four experimental settings (MOM/SR, MOM/DR, IMW/SR, IMW/DR). Power in band was computed in separate clusters of independent components of the EEG signals. In addition to significant task effects, found in frontolimbic (MOM > IMW in gamma) and frontoparietal locations (MOM < IMW in theta), significant condition effects were found in frontal (SR > DR in delta) and in temporo-occipital regions (SR > DR in theta and alpha). Moreover, a significant interaction between task and condition revealed higher gamma activity in limbic areas during MOM/SR vs. MOM/DR settings. This effect was not attributable to gender, age nor the meditation expertise of participants. We thus show that the brains of two people work differently when they are doing something together or alone; some of these differences are specific to mindfulness meditation. Implications for devotional and clinical settings are discussed.
... The insular cortex is involved in numerous functions, the complexity of which increases according to the posterior-anterior axis [1] and is sustained by a specific type of large pyramidal neurons uniquely developed in hominoid primates, the Von Economo neurons [2]. Insular functions range from primary functions, such as gustation [3,4] and interoception [5,6], to more integrative functions which are based on the formal representations of bodily states, such as self-consciousness [1,7] and social cognition [8,9], together pursuing individual homeostasis. By reverberating emotions through viscerosensory responses, the insula plays a central role in the regulation of emotions [10][11][12] and influences decisionmaking [13,14]. ...
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Background: Despite the growing number of discoveries during the past decades about its functions, the insula remains a mysterious 'island'. In addition to its involvement in basic functions such as gustation and interoception, the insular cortex is now considered a key region for integrated functions such as emotion/motivation processing, decision-making and self-consciousness. We hypothesized that this structure, standing at the crossroads of such functions, could ground personal tastes in general, beyond food preferences and aesthetic judgements. Given that dementia with Lewy bodies is characterized by a focal atrophy within the insular cortex from the early stages, this condition provides an opportunity to test such a hypothesis. Methods: We developed a questionnaire to assess potential changes in personal tastes, submitted it to a cohort of 23 patients with early-stage dementia with Lewy bodies and compared their questionnaire results to those of 20 age-matched healthy controls. Furthermore, we performed a global and regional neuroimaging study to test for a potential correlation between the patients' scores for changes in personal tastes and their insular cortex volumes. Results: Our results indicate that the patients presented significant changes in personal tastes compared to the controls, in both food and non-food domains. Moreover, imaging analyses confirmed the involvement of the insular cortex atrophy in the changes in personal tastes using global analysis, and in both food and non-food domains using regional analysis. Conclusions: These results bring new insights into the role of the insula as a 'grey matter of tastes', this structure supporting personal preferences in general, beyond the food domain. The insular cortex could be involved through its role in motivational processes by the representation of subjective awareness of bodily states during the phenomenological experience of stimulus appraisal. However, we also argue that it could support the abstract representations of personal tastes as self-concepts, acutely exemplifying embodied cognition. Finally, the questionnaire on changes in tastes could constitute an interesting tool to help early diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies and to assess insular dysfunction more generally.
... The lAi belongs to the empathy core network, which is always active when we represent the affective state of the "other" (Engen & Singer, 2013), it also has been related to the appreciation and integration of external and internal stimuli to process empathy related states (Uddin et al., 2017). On the other hand, the dmPFC has been associated with executive control, emotion regulation success (Etkin et al., 2015;Kohn et al., 2014;Senholzi & Kubota, 2016) and cognitive empathy (Eres et al., 2015). This association between dmPFC and lAi, suggests a greater regulatory control of the empathic response. ...
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Psychotherapists constantly regulate their own perspective and emotions to better understand the other state. We compared 52 psychotherapists with 92 non-psychotherapists to characterized psychometric constructs like, Fantasy (FS) and Perspective Taking (PT), and the emotion regulation strategy of Expressive Suppression (ES), which hampers the empathic response. Psychotherapists showed greater FS, PT and lower ES scores. In a subsample (36, 18 ea.), we did a functional connectivity (FC) study. Psychotherapists showed greater FC between the left anterior insula and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex; and less connectivity between rostral anterior cingulate cortex and the orbito prefrontal cortex. Both associations correlated with the PT scores and suggest a cognitive regulatory effect related to the empathic response. Considering, that the psychometric differences between groups were in the cognitive domain and that the FC associations are related to cognitive processes, these results suggest that psychotherapists have a greater cognitive regulation over their empathic response.
... Within the broader literature on empathy, this construct is typically measured using a combination of self-report and behavioural measures to understand the underlying neurological and physiological mechanisms promoting empathy and caring. 15,27,30,31 The Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy (QCAE) [32][33][34][35] was developed to address inconsistencies in current measurement tools such as the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). It reliably assesses the different components of empathy (cognitive and affective and their respective subcomponents) based on the social cognitive neuroscience literature on empathy and its underlying neural processes. ...
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Expressions of emotion represent an important and unique source of information about the states of others. Being able to effectively understand expressions of emotions to make inferences about others' internal mental states and use these inferences to guide decision-making and behavior is critical to navigating social relationships. Loneliness, the perception that one lacks social connection, has important functional consequences for how individuals attend to signals of emotions in others. However, it is less clear whether loneliness changes how individuals recognize emotions in others. In medical practitioners, being able to accurately recognize emotional cues from patients is critical to effectively diagnosing and reacting with care to those patients. The current study examines the relationship between changes in loneliness during medical school and students' recognition of emotion in others. Measures of loneliness and emotion recognition were collected from 122 medical students during their first 3 years of medical school at the beginning and end of each academic year. Changes in loneliness were related to changes in emotion detection, with increases in loneliness being associated with decreases in the probability of accurately discriminating sad and angry faces from other expressions, decreases in the probability of mislabeling emotion expressions as happy, and increases in the probability of mislabeling other emotional expressions as pained and angry. This study suggests that changes in loneliness during medical school are associated with increases in students' labeling emotional expressions as negative, possibly by shifting attention to cues of negative emotion and away from cues of positive emotion. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
... While many studies have assessed empathy as a state rather than a trait focusing on the neuronal activation associated with empathyeliciting situations [25][26][27] , few investigations have been interested in the structural underpinning of the trait empathy, and additionally most often in the presence of pathological conditions, as schizophrenia 28 , aggressive and antisocial behavior 29 , neurodegenerative disorders 30 . To date, very few reports have analyzed the brain substrate of empathic capacity in healthy subjects by using Voxel-Based Morphometry (VBM) [31][32][33][34] . It is evident that the research on the neural correlates of empathy has been so far mainly focused on the cerebrum, however the increasingly recognized involvement of cerebellum in social cognition 1,6,12 , of which empathy is one of the most advanced component, makes it necessary aimed investigations on the role played by the cerebellum in empathic capabilities. ...
Article
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Few investigations have analyzed the neuroanatomical substrate of empathic capacities in healthy subjects, and most of them have neglected the potential involvement of cerebellar structures. The main aim of the present study was to investigate the associations between bilateral cerebellar macro- and micro-structural measures and levels of cognitive and affective trait empathy (measured by Interpersonal Reactivity Index, IRI) in a sample of 70 healthy subjects of both sexes. We also estimated morphometric variations of cerebral Gray Matter structures, to ascertain whether the potential empathy-related peculiarities in cerebellar areas were accompanied by structural differences in other cerebral regions. At macro-structural level, the volumetric differences were analyzed by Voxel-Based Morphometry (VBM)- and Region of Interest (ROI)-based approaches, and at a micro-structural level, we analyzed Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) data, focusing in particular on Mean Diffusivity and Fractional Anisotropy. Fantasy IRI-subscale was found to be positively associated with volumes in right cerebellar Crus 2 and pars triangularis of inferior frontal gyrus. The here described morphological variations of cerebellar Crus 2 and pars triangularis allow to extend the traditional cortico-centric view of cognitive empathy to the cerebellar regions and indicate that in empathizing with fictional characters the cerebellar and frontal areas are co-recruited.
... The other approach is simply to measure empathy and control for it statistically. In considering empathy via this approach, we urge researchers to consider the fundamental distinction between cognitive empathy (understanding someone else's thoughts, feelings, and perspective, akin to theory of mind), and affective empathy (feeling what someone else is feeling), as there is compelling evidence that cognitive and affective empathy call upon distinct mechanisms (Cox et al., 2012;Eres et al., 2015;Kanske et al., 2015;Preckel et al., 2018;Shamay-Tsoory et al., 2009;Tholen et al., 2020). It may also be important to consider the motivational dimension of empathic concern (i.e., extent to which a person is motivated to promote the well-being and alleviate the suffering of others (Weisz & Cikara, 2021). ...
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Scientists have long been interested in understanding the influence of emotionally salient stimuli on attention and perception. One experimental paradigm that has shown great promise in demonstrating the effect of such stimuli is emotion-induced blindness. That is, when emotionally salient stimuli are presented in a rapid stream of stimuli, they produce impairments in the perception of task-relevant stimuli, even though they themselves are task irrelevant. This is known as emotion-induced blindness, and it is a profound and robust form of attentional bias. Here, we review the literature on emotion-induced blindness, such as identifying the types of stimuli that elicit it, and its temporal dynamics. We discuss the role of dimensional versus categorical approaches to emotion in relation to emotion-induced blindness. We also synthesize the work examining whether certain individuals, such as those high in anxiety versus psychopathy, succumb to emotion-induced blindness to different extents, and we discuss whether the deficit can be reduced or even abolished. We review the theoretical models that have been proposed to explain the phenomenon. Finally, we identify exciting questions for future research, and elucidate useful frameworks to guide future investigations.
... For example, Banissy et al. reported differences in grey matter volume for affective empathy (empathic concern and personal distress) in the ACC and insula, and also in precuneus and somatosensory cortex. Trait differences for the cognitive component of empathy (perspective taking and fantasy) were associated with activations in the ACC and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex 16 (similar [17][18][19] ). While Banissy et al. and others used voxel-based morphology (VBM) to reveal trait empathy differences, a recent study examined markers of myeloarchitectural integrity and found www.nature.com/scientificreports/ ...
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Previous research revealed an active network of brain areas such as insula and anterior cingulate cortex when witnessing somebody else in pain and feeling empathy. But numerous studies also suggested a role of the somatosensory cortices for state and trait empathy. While recent studies highlight the role of the observer’s primary somatosensory cortex when seeing painful or nonpainful touch, the interaction of somatosensory cortex activity with empathy when receiving touch on the own body is unknown. The current study examines the relationship of touch related somatosensory cortex activity with dispositional empathy by employing an fMRI approach. Participants were touched on the palm of the hand either by the hand of an experimenter or by a rubber hand. We found that the BOLD responses in the primary somatosensory cortex were associated with empathy personality traits personal distress and perspective taking. This relationship was observed when participants were touched both with the experimenter’s real hand or a rubber hand. What is the reason for this link between touch perception and trait empathy? We argue that more empathic individuals may express stronger attention both to other’s human perceptions as well as to the own sensations. In this way, higher dispositional empathy levels might enhance tactile processing by top-down processes. We discuss possible implications of these findings.
... Cognitive empathy is de ned as the ability to construct a working model of the emotional states of others, whereas affective empathy is de ned as the ability to be sensitive to and vicariously experience the feelings of others. Furthermore, cognitive empathy has been associated with the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and midcingulate cortex, whereas affective empathy is linked to activity of the insula [27,28]. It is likely that cognitive and affective empathy are distinct categories. ...
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Background: Reported empathy deficits in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) could be attributable to other ASD-related features. Method: We evaluated 28 adults with ASD and no intellectual disability or language delay and 24 age-matched healthy control subjects using the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ), Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy (QCAE), Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), and NEO Personality Inventory-Revised (NEO-PI-R). Results: Compared to the controls, ASD participants showed lower scores for perspective taking, online simulation, cognitive empathy, and peripheral responsivity on the QCAE, and lower scores for perspective taking and empathic concern on the IRI. Within the ASD group, the AQ scores showed significant relationships with perspective taking, online simulation and cognitive empathy on the QCAE, and perspective taking on the IRI. Only within the ASD group, significant correlations were revealed between personal distress on the IRI with emotional contagion, proximal responsivity, and affective empathy on the QCAE. The ASD group also showed higher scores for neuroticism and lower scores for extraversion on the NEO-PI-R compared to the controls. However, there were no relationships between AQ scores and NEO factors within the ASD group. There were significant correlations of online simulation and affective empathy on the QCAE with extraversion on the NEO-PI-R only within the ASD group. Multiple regression analysis demonstrated that perspective taking score on the QCAE and extraversion score on the NEO-PI-R were good predictor variables to autistic traits on the AQ. Conclusions: These findings help our understanding of ASD adults with no intellectual disability or language delay.
... Current studies rely either on directly asking individuals to evaluate their trait empathy or to assess their state empathy (9). These studies facilitated the essential behavioral and neural differentiation of empathy components and provided several classifications of empathic abilities, the most prevalent of which is the distinction between emotional and cognitive empathy (10,11). Emotional empathy includes sharing of another's emotions, as well as emotional contagion, a condition in which one feels emotions detected in others (12)(13)(14)(15). ...
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Empathy allows us to respond to the emotional state of another person. Considering that an empathic interaction may last beyond the initial response, learning mechanisms may be involved in dynamic adaptation of the reaction to the changing emotional state of the other person. However, traditionally, empathy is assessed through sets of isolated reactions to another's distress. Here we address this gap by focusing on adaptive empathy, defined as the ability to learn and adjust one's empathic responses based on feedback. For this purpose, we designed a novel paradigm of associative learning in which participants chose one of two empathic strategies (reappraisal or distraction) to attenuate the distress of a target person, where one strategy had a higher probability of relieving distress. After each choice, participants received feedback about the success of their chosen strategy in relieving the target person's distress, which they could use to inform their future decisions. The results show that the participants made more accurate choices in the adaptive empathy condition than in a non-social control condition, pointing to an advantage for learning from social feedback. We found a correlation between adaptive empathy and a trait measure of cognitive empathy. These findings indicate that the ability to learn about the effectiveness of empathic responses may benefit from incorporating mentalizing abilities. Our findings provide a lab-based model for studying adaptive empathy and point to the potential contribution of learning theory to enhancing our understanding of the dynamic nature of empathy.
... Although no single accepted theoretical model of empathy currently exists, it is commonly conceptualized as including affective and cognitive components as well as a mechanism for tracking self-feelings and other-feelings (25)(26)(27). Accordingly, various researchers (28,29) have chosen to study empathy as consisting of two distinct but interrelated systems -Cognitive and Affective empathy. Cognitive empathy is associated closely with Theory of Mind and describes an individual's ability to infer another's mental state including aspects such as their knowledge or beliefs, whereas Affective empathy is associated with understanding another's affective state, sometimes related to state-matching, emotional contagion or experiences of empathic concern (26,30). ...
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It has been well established through behavioural studies that empathy significantly influences music perception. Such individual differences typically manifest as variability in whole brain functional connectivity patterns. To date, nobody has examined the modulatory effect of empathy on functional connectivity patterns during continuous music listening. In the present study, we seek to investigate the global and local connectivity patterns of 36 participants whose fMRI scanning was done by employing the naturalistic paradigm wherein they listened to a continuous piece of music. We used graph-based measures of functional connectivity to identify how cognitive and affective components of empathy modulate functional connectivity. Partial correlation between Eigenvector centrality and measures of empathy showed that cognitive empathy is associated with higher centrality in the sensorimotor regions responsible for motor mimicry while affective empathy showed higher centrality in regions related to auditory affect processing. We furthermore identified a left-hemispheric dominance in the modulatory effect of affective empathy particularly in the Orbitofrontal cortex and the temporal pole. Results are discussed in relation to various theoretical models of empathy and music cognition.
... The exact neural mechanisms subserving complex social cognition abilities are partially understood. Several studies among healthy populations align cognitive empathy abilities with medial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex areas, the temporo-parietal junction, and the temporal pole [24][25][26][27], whereas affective empathy has been associated with fronto-temporo-parietal and limbic structures such as the precuneus, the infe-rior frontal gyrus, the anterior cingulate cortex, the somatosensory cortex, the amygdala, and the insula [26,[28][29][30]. ...
Article
Background: Empathy is a multidimensional construct and a key component of social cognition. In Huntington's disease (HD), little is known regarding the phenomenology and the neural correlates of cognitive and affective empathy, and regarding how empathic deficits interact with other behavioral and cognitive manifestations. Objective: To explore the cognitive and affective empathy disturbances and related behavioral and neural correlates in HD. Methods: Clinical and sociodemographic data were obtained from 36 healthy controls (HC) and 54 gene-mutation carriers (17 premanifest and 37 early-manifest HD). The Test of Cognitive and Affective Empathy (TECA) was used to characterize cognitive (CE) and affective empathy (AE), and to explore their associations with grey matter volume (GMV) and cortical thickness (Cth). Results: Compared to HC, premanifest participants performed significantly worse in perspective taking (CE) and empathic distress (AE). In symptomatic participants, scores were significantly lower in almost all the TECA subscales. Several empathy subscales were associated with the severity of apathy, irritability, and cognitive deficits. CE was associated with GMV in thalamic, temporal, and occipital regions, and with Cth in parietal and temporal areas. AE was associated with GMV in the basal ganglia, limbic, occipital, and medial orbitofrontal regions, and with Cth in parieto-occipital areas. Conclusion: Cognitive and affective empathy deficits are detectable early, are more severe in symptomatic participants, and involve the disruption of several fronto-temporal, parieto-occipital, basal ganglia, and limbic regions. These deficits are associated with disease severity and contribute to several behavioral symptoms, facilitating the presentation of maladaptive patterns of social interaction.
... QCAE scores are inversely related to psychopathy and Machiavellianism (Reniers et al., 2011). Further, Cognitive versus Affective Empathy as gauged via the QCAE have been found to differentially relate to differences in brain structure in areas implicated in the different components of empathy (Eres, Decety, Louis, & Molenberghs, 2015). ...
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Cognitive empathy (or theory of mind) is the capacity to understand others' thoughts and feelings, while affective empathy is the tendency to be affected by others' feelings. There is evidence that successful attentional control is related to increased cognitive empathy but reduced affective empathy. Here, we investigated whether empathy relates to real-world cognitive failures, which are associated with attentional control. We examined the relationship between individual differences in the propensity to experience everyday cognitive failures using the widely-validated Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ), and cognitive versus affective empathy (using the Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy) in a sample of 394 participants. We found qualitatively different relationships between general cognitive failures and the two components of empathy, such that individuals prone to cognitive failures experienced reduced tendency to understand others' perspective, but experienced greater feeling of others' emotions. When we considered the sub-factors of Cognitive Failures (Forgetfulness, Distractibility and False-Triggering), they were equivalently related to Affective Empathy. However, for Cognitive Empathy, Distractibility-related cognitive failures were uniquely negatively associated, while Forgetfulness-related cognitive failures were positively associated. Implications for the interplay between cognitive and socio-emotional factors, and the conceptualization of cognitive failures are discussed.
... Cognitive empathy has been described as the understanding of what someone else's emotions may be, without being emotionally involved (Shamay-Tsoory, Aharon-Peretz, & Perry, 2009). Cognitive empathy is thought to entail the ability to predict another's behavior or mental state (Eres, Decety, Louis, & Molenberghs, 2015). The cognitive component is attributed to applying a "theory of mind" (Wellman, 2002;Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004). ...
Article
Date Presented 03/26/20 Adults with DCD only or DCD with co-occurrence reported significantly lower success in past (late adolescent) social relationships, compared to typically developing adults. Yet in adulthood, the DCD-only group did not differ significantly from the typically developing group in social relationships. Adults with DCD appear to have more positive social experiences than they did in adolescence. The results suggest a unique contribution of different patterns of neurodevelopmental co-occurrence with DCD in adulthood. Primary Author and Speaker: Miri Tal-Saban Contributing Authors: Amanda Kirby
... 2010; Rueda et al., 2015). Соотносятся с данной позицией и исследования, демонстрирующие различия в плотности серого вещества разных отделов головного мозга в зависимости от выраженности когнитивной или аффективной эмпатии (Banissy et al., 2012;Eres et al., 2015;Uribe et al., 2019) а также исследования, в которых показана разница в активации отделов головного мозга в зависимости от протекания того или иного эмпатического процесса (Kogler et al., 2020). Таким образом, многомерность данного конструкта делает актуальной задачу разработки такого инструмента, который позволит сделать вывод отдельно о каждом компоненте эмпатии. ...
Article
В статье представлены результаты апробации Опросника когнитивной и аффективной эмпатии Р. Реньерс на русскоязычной выборке. В отличие от других направленных на диагностику эмпатии методик, доступных русскоязычному исследователю, данный оп­ро­сник демонстрирует хорошие психометрические показатели, а также пригоден для измерения как когнитивной, так и аффективной эмпатии. В исследовании приняли участие 788 человек в возрасте от 18 до 66 лет (M = 26, SD = 10.1; 707 женщин и 81 мужчина). Методом конфирматорного факторного анализа была подтверждена заявленная в оригинальной версии опросника факторная структура, обе проверенные модели демонстрируют удовлетворительный уровень соответствия данным. Шкалы методики показывают высокие значения надежности-согласованности, составляющие их субшкалы — удовлетворительные значения на­деж­ности-согласованности. Конвергентная валидность подтверждается наличием корреляций со шкалами эмоционального интеллекта, психопатии, макиавеллизма. Когнитивная эмпатия положительно связана со всеми субшкалами эмоционального интеллекта, аффективная эмпатия положительно связана с межличностным эмоциональным интеллектом, но отрицательно — с внутриличностным эмоциональным интеллектом. Психопатия и макиавеллизм отрицательно связаны с аффективной эмпатией и одной из субшкал когнитивной эмпатии. Женщины демонстрируют более высокий уровень аффективной эмпатии, чем мужчины, гендерных различий в уровне когнитивной эмпатии выявлено не было. Полученные результаты позволяют рассматривать предложенную версию методики в качестве инструмента оценки когнитивной и аффективной эмпатии. Наличие надежного и валидного русскоязычного инструмента диагностики эмпатии может расширить возможности практической и исследовательской деятельности, в том числе кросс-культурных исследований.
... We carefully considered whether validity of these paradigms for use in pregnant women played a role in null findings. However, as shown in Table 1, the intercorrelation between affect sharing and empathic concern, and distinctions between affective and cognitive components of empathy previously described in non-pregnant adults (Eres et al., 2015), were broadly mirrored in this sample of pregnant smokers. High expressed emotion was also inversely related to affective components of empathy, consistent with the view that empathic concern and prosocial behavior is dependent on emotional regulation (Brethel-Haurwitz et al., 2020;López-Pérez and Ambrona, 2015). ...
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Background Spontaneous cessation and reduction in smoking by pregnant women suggest that concern about others, or empathy, could be a malleable target for intervention. We examined various empathy-related processes in relations to reported and biochemically assessed smoking during pregnancy. Methods Participants were 154 pregnant women (M = 12.4 weeks gestation, SD = 4.6) who were smoking cigarettes immediately prior to pregnancy recognition (85 had quit and 69 were still smoking at enrollment). Empathy-related processes were measured with performance-based paradigms (affect sharing, empathic concern, and theory of mind) and a speech sample (expressed emotion). Smoking was assessed with timeline follow back interviews and urine cotinine assays. Using zero-inflated Poisson regression models, we tested direct and interactive effects of empathy-related processes with respect to biologically verified smoking cessation (zero portion); and mean cigarettes/day smoked after pregnancy recognition among persistent smokers (count portion). Results Affect sharing was inversely related to post-recognition cigarettes/day (B(SE) = -0.17(0.07), 95%C.I. -0.30,-0.04, p = .011) and moderated the relationship between pre-recognition smoking and post-recognition smoking consistent with a buffering effect (B(SE) = -.17(0.05); 95%C.I. - 0.28,-0.06; p = .002). Other empathy related processes showed neither direct nor interactive effects on smoking outcomes. Conclusions Further research is recommended to clarify the role of empathy in pregnancy smoking.
... This result was even stronger for low-intensity pain expressions, highlighting the fact that expertise effects are more noticeable when fewer cues are available to assess the pain of infants. Thus, if emotional empathy is based on the activation of the anterior insula and the ACC as indicated by numerous neuroimaging studies, 22,35 it does not appear to be necessary in the clinical assessment of pain by physicians and other health professionals. 25,27,33,34 This suggests that the link between expertise and neural response to vicarious pain may be more specific to health care practitioners than the link between expertise and pain assessment. ...
Article
It is acknowledged that empathy plays a critical role in the physician-patient relationship and has a positive impact on health outcomes. However, as the field of empathy expands, the lack of conceptual coherence challenges advances in medicine. In fact, in some cases there is little added theoretical or clinical value in applying the all-encompassing term of empathy in medical setting, which is by nature multidimensional, interpersonal and modulated by the context. Functional neuroimaging studies of health professionals, designed to examine patterns of brain activation in response to empathy-eliciting situations bring theoretical clarity to the neurocognitive mechanisms that underlie interpersonal sensitivity, emotional empathy, cognitive empathy, and caring. These components are relatively independent, but often interact and are deeply interwoven in the fabric of the brain. Nevertheless, it seems clear from this review that cultivating empathic concern or compassion in today's medicine is more important than other aspects of empathy, like vicariously experiencing and introspecting about patients' emotions. Specific neurobiological mechanisms explain the benefit to patients of their physicians' perceived empathy.
... In particular, the IRI's EC scale assesses the tendency to experience other-oriented feelings such as sympathy and compassion which do not involve affect sharing and "feeling as" the other, but rather a "feeling for" and thus concern and attention to others and their needs [75]. Neuroscientific studies have linked this empathic disposition with brain regions associated with affective responses, reward processing, action and cognition, such as the anterior insula, anterior/ subgenual cingulate and inferior frontal cortex [102][103][104][105][106]. Interestingly, previous studies have consistently documented that people scoring high on EC or similar emotional empathy scales (rather than on cognitive empathy scales) display greater emotionally congruent facial mimicry when exposed to emotional faces [14,16,18,74], possibly because of their greater motivation to attend to others' emotional signals [75]. ...
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Facial mimicry is commonly defined as the tendency to imitate—at a sub-threshold level—facial expressions of other individuals. Numerous studies support a role of facial mimicry in recognizing others’ emotions. However, the underlying functional mechanism is unclear. A prominent hypothesis considers facial mimicry as based on an action-perception loop, leading to the prediction that facial mimicry should be observed only when processing others’ facial expressions. Nevertheless, previous studies have also detected facial mimicry during observation of emotional bodily expressions. An emergent alternative hypothesis is that facial mimicry overtly reflects the simulation of an “emotion”, rather than the reproduction of a specific observed motor pattern. In the present study, we tested whether blocking mimicry (“Bite”) on the lower face disrupted recognition of happy expressions conveyed by either facial or body expressions. In Experiment 1, we tested participants’ ability to identify happy, fearful and neutral expressions in the Bite condition and in two control conditions. In Experiment 2, to ensure that such a manipulation selectively affects emotion recognition, we tested participants’ ability to recognize emotional expressions, as well as the actors’ gender, under the Bite condition and a control condition. Finally, we investigated the relationship between dispositional empathy and emotion recognition under the condition of blocked mimicry. Our findings demonstrated that blocking mimicry on the lower face hindered recognition of happy facial and body expressions, while the recognition of neutral and fearful expressions was not affected by the mimicry manipulation. The mimicry manipulation did not affect the gender discrimination task. Furthermore, the impairment of happy expression recognition correlated with empathic traits. These results support the role of facial mimicry in emotion recognition and suggest that facial mimicry reflects a global sensorimotor simulation of others’ emotions rather than a muscle-specific reproduction of an observed motor expression.
... The ToM related network includes the ventral TPJ, anterior and posterior medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), superior temporal gyrus/sulcus (STG/STS), and temporal poles (Bzdok et al., 2012;Schurz, Radua, Aichhorn, Richlan, & Perner, 2014). Direct contrasts of both functions confirmed these networks with functional (Kanske, Böckler, Trautwein, & Singer, 2015) and structural neuroimaging (Eres, Decety, Louis, & Molenberghs, 2015;Valk et al., 2017;Valk, Bernhardt, Bockler, Kanske, & Singer, 2016). These studies show that empathizing and mentalizing engage distinct neural networks. ...
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In contrast to conventional functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) analysis across participants, item analysis allows generalizing the observed neural response patterns from a specific stimulus set to the entire population of stimuli. In the present study, we perform an item analysis on an fMRI paradigm (EmpaToM) that measures the neural correlates of empathy and Theory of Mind (ToM). The task includes a large stimulus set (240 emotional vs. neutral videos to probe empathic responding and 240 ToM or factual reasoning questions to probe ToM), which we tested in two large participant samples (N = 178, N = 130). Both, the empathy‐related network comprising anterior insula, anterior cingulate/dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, and dorsal temporoparietal junction/supramarginal gyrus (TPJ) and the ToM related network including ventral TPJ, superior temporal gyrus, temporal poles, and anterior and posterior midline regions, were observed across participants and items. Regression analyses confirmed that these activations are predicted by the empathy or ToM condition of the stimuli, but not by low‐level features such as video length, number of words, syllables or syntactic complexity. The item analysis also allowed for the selection of the most effective items to create optimized stimulus sets that provide the most stable and reproducible results. Finally, reproducibility was shown in the replication of all analyses in the second participant sample. The data demonstrate (a) the generalizability of empathy and ToM related neural activity and (b) the reproducibility of the EmpaToM task and its applicability in intervention and clinical imaging studies.
... In the y-axis, the scale of the test scores. tive control, emotion regulation success (Kohn et al., 2014;Etkin et al., 2015;Senholzi and Kubota, 2016) and cognitive empathy (Eres et al., 2015). In addition, the relation between the FC of lAi-dmPFC and the cognitive empathy variables for both groups and psychotherapists, is in line with aforementioned associations with cognitive empathy. ...
Article
In a therapeutic environment a proper regulation of the empathic response strengthens the patient-therapist relationship. Thus, it is important that psychotherapists constantly regulate their own perspective and emotions to better understand the other’s affective state. We compared the empathic abilities of a group of 52 psychotherapists with a group of 92 non-psychotherapists and found psychometric differences. Psychotherapists showed greater scores in Fantasy and Perspective Taking, both cognitive empathy constructs, and lower scores in the use of expressive suppression, an emotional regulation strategy that hampers the empathic response, suggesting that psychotherapists exert top-down processes that influence their empathic response. In addition, the expected sex differences in empathic concern and expressive suppression were only present in the non-psychotherapist group. To see if such psychometric differences were related to a distinctive functional organization of brain networks, we contrasted the resting state functional connectivity of empathy-related brain regions between a group of 18 experienced psychotherapists and a group of 18 non-psychotherapists. Psychotherapists showed greater functional connectivity between the left anterior insula and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, and less connectivity between rostral anterior cingulate cortex and the orbito prefrontal cortex. Both associations correlated with Perspective Taking scores. Considering that the psychometric differences between groups were in the cognitive domain and that the functional connectivity associations involve areas related to cognitive regulation processes, these results suggest a relationship between the functional brain organization of psychotherapists and the cognitive regulation of their empathic response.
... Such brain properties are believed to contribute to differences in the individual predisposition for empathic experiences. For instance, previous magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies focused on the association between local grey matter volumes and the subscales of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI [14]) or the Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy (QCAE [15]). Functional MRI (fMRI) studies provided insights into the relationship of IRI subscales with intrinsic functional connectivity patterns during resting states in the absence of external task demands [16][17][18] or fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations [19]. ...
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Citation: Ebisch, S.J.H.; Scalabrini, A.; Northoff, G.; Mucci, C.; Sergi, M.R.; Saggino, A.; Aquino, A.; Alparone, F.R.; Perrucci, M.G.; Gallese, V.; Di Plinio, S.
... This is one reason friends and family are better than the person in this altered state at predicting whether a relationship will last (MacDonald & Ross, 1999). Although most people are emotional and impulsive when in love, others can be thoughtful and deliberate (Eres, Decety, Louis, & Molenberghs, 2015;Langeslag & van Strien, 2016). ...
... Despite a variety of precise definitions [15], empathy can be characterized roughly as a multidimensional concept comprising distinct but related cognitive and affective processes, a distinction also seen in separate but interacting neural networks [16][17][18][19][20][21]. Cognitive empathy is a capacity to understand the emotional states of others, and affective empathy is a capacity to be sensitive to, and to vicariously experience the feelings of others [22]. ...
Article
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We ask how state empathy, trait empathy, and role awareness influence dictator game giving in a monetarily incentivized experiment. We manipulated two factors: role awareness (role certainty vs. role uncertainty) and state empathy induction (no empathy induction vs. empathy induction). Under role uncertainty, participants did not know their role as a dictator or a recipient when making their choices. State empathy was induced by asking the dictators to consider what the recipient would feel when learning about the decision. Each participant was randomly assigned into one of the four conditions, and in each condition, participants were randomly assigned into dictator and receiver roles. The role assignment took place before or after decisions were made, depending on the condition. We also studied the direct influence of trait empathy on dictator game giving as well as its interaction with the experimental manipulations. Trait empathy was measured by the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) and the Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy (QCAE) before the experiment. Of our experimental manipulations, role awareness had an effect on dictator game giving; participants donated more under role uncertainty than under role certainty. Instead, we did not observe an effect of state empathy induction. Of trait empathy subscales, only affective empathy was positively associated with dictator game giving. Finally, role awareness did not influence all participants similarly but had a larger impact on those with low scores on trait empathic concern or trait affective empathy. Our results indicate that specific measures to induce altruistic sharing can be effective but their effect may vary depending on certain personal characteristics.
... Such brain properties are believed to contribute to differences in the individual predisposition for empathic experiences. For instance, previous magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies focused on the association between local grey matter volumes and the subscales of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI; Banissy et al. 2012) or the Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy (QCAE; Eres et al. 2015). Functional MRI (fMRI) studies provided insights in the relationship of IRI subscales with intrinsic functional connectivity patterns during resting states in the absence of external task-demands (Christov-Moore et al. 2020;Esmenio et al. 2019;Winters et al. 2021) or fractional amplitude of lowfrequency fluctuations . ...
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Trait empathy is an essential personality feature in the intricacy of typical social inclinations of individuals. Empathy is likely supported by multilevel neuronal network functioning, whereas local topological properties determine network integrity. In the present functional MRI study (N=116), we aimed to trace empathic traits to the intrinsic brain network architecture. Empathy was conceived as composed of two dimensions within the concept of pre-reflective, intersubjective understanding. Vicarious experience consists of the tendency to resonate with the feelings of other individuals, whereas intuitive understanding refers to a natural awareness of others’ emotional states. Analyses of graph theoretical measures of centrality showed a relationship between the fronto-parietal network and psychometric measures of vicarious experience, whereas intuitive understanding was associated with sensorimotor and subcortical networks. Salience network regions could constitute hubs for information processing underlying both dimensions. The network properties related to empathy dimensions mainly concerned inter-network information flow. Moreover, interaction effects implied several gender differences in the relationship between functional network organization and trait empathy. These results reveal that distinct intrinsic topological network features explain individual differences in separate dimensions of intersubjective understanding. The findings could help to understand the impact of brain damage or stimulation through alterations of empathy-related network integrity.
... It is likely that cognitive and affective empathy are distinct categories. Cognitive empathy has been associated with the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and midcingulate cortex, whereas affective empathy is linked to activity of the insula 28,29 . In the present study, ASD group showed significant alterations in the peripheral responsivity on the QCAE and the empathic concern on the IRI, but these scores did not show any significant correlations with AQ scores within each group. ...
Article
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Reported empathy deficits in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) could be attributable to other ASD-related features. We evaluated 28 ASD adults with no intellectual disability and 24 age-matched non-ASD control subjects using the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ), Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy (QCAE), Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), and NEO Personality Inventory-Revised (NEO). Compared to the controls, ASD participants showed lower scores for perspective taking, online simulation, cognitive empathy, and peripheral responsivity on the QCAE, and lower scores for perspective taking and empathic concern on the IRI. Within the ASD group, the AQ scores showed significant relationships with perspective taking, online simulation and cognitive empathy on the QCAE, and perspective taking on the IRI. The ASD group also showed higher scores for neuroticism and lower scores for extraversion on the NEO compared to the controls. However, there were no relationships between AQ scores and NEO factors within the ASD group. Multiple regression analysis with stepwise linear regression demonstrated that perspective taking score on the QCAE and extraversion score on the NEO were good predictor variables to autistic traits on the AQ. These findings help us to understand empathy and personality traits in ASD adults with no intellectual disability.
... Focusing on a single empathic response in isolation from the target has been useful in identifying different aspects of empathy. For example, this approach facilitated differentiating between a shared distress network activated during emotional empathy and a mentalizing network activated during cognitive empathy (Eres et al., 2015;Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). Here we suggest that because empathy is associated with relationships with others (Zaki, 2014), it must be examined in the context of dynamic interactions between the empathizer and the target over time. ...
Article
Empathy is usually deployed in social interactions. Nevertheless, common measures and examinations of empathy study this construct in isolation from the person in distress. In this article we seek to extend the field of examination to include both empathizer and target to determine whether and how empathic responses are affected by feedback and learned through interaction. Building on computational approaches in feedback-based adaptations (e.g., no feedback, model-free and model-based learning), we propose a framework for understanding how empathic responses are learned on the basis of feedback. In this framework, adaptive empathy, defined as the ability to adapt one's empathic responses, is a central aspect of empathic skills and can provide a new dimension to the evaluation and investigation of empathy. By extending existing neural models of empathy, we suggest that adaptive empathy may be mediated by interactions between the neural circuits associated with valuation, shared distress, observation-execution, and mentalizing. Finally, we propose that adaptive empathy should be considered a prominent facet of empathic capabilities with the potential to explain empathic behavior in health and psychopathology.
Chapter
In diesem Abschnitt werden neuere Entwicklungen und Modelle der sozialkognitiven Neurowissenschaften erläutert. Diese versuchen, die soziale Dimension von Kognition und neuronalen Prozessen bereits in den Grundlinien der Theoriebildung zu berücksichtigen und auch in der empirisch-experimentellen Forschung miteinzubeziehen. Der gegenwärtige Stand der Forschung zu embodied, embedded, enactive, extended cognition – 4E Kognition – wird entfaltet, des Weiteren werden Theorien und Begriffe des aktuell viel diskutierten predictive coding Modells vorgestellt. Konvergenzen zwischen den verschiedenen Theoriebildungen werden herausgearbeitet. Es zeigt sich dabei, dass reduktive, gehirnzentrierte Modelle zunehmend zugunsten von biopsychosozialökologischen Ansätzen aufgegeben werden, wodurch sich eine große, vielleicht in dieser Form noch nie dagewesene Gesprächsnähe zwischen der neurowissenschaftlichen Forschung und leiborientierter Psychotherapie und Psychiatrie ergibt.
Article
Objective A large literature now shows that Alzheimer’s disease (AD) disrupts a number of social cognitive abilities, including social perceptual function and theory of mind (ToM). However, less well understood is how the specific subcomponents of ToM as well as both the broader and specific subcomponents of empathic processing are affected. Method The current study provides the first meta-analytic review of AD that focuses on both empathy and ToM as broad constructs, as well as their overlapping (cognitive empathy and affective ToM) and distinct (affective empathy and cognitive ToM) subcomponents. Results Aggregated across 31 studies, the results revealed that, relative to controls, AD is associated with large-sized deficits in both cognitive ToM ( g = 1.09) and affective ToM/cognitive empathy ( g = 0.76). However, no statistical differences were found between the AD participants and controls on affective empathic abilities ( g = 0.36). Conclusions These data point to a potentially important disconnect between core aspects of social cognitive processing in people with AD. The practical and theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.
Article
Background: Pregnancy constitutes a significant period in the lives of women, after which they often experience numerous crucial physiological and psychological changes. Functional neuroimaging studies have shown longitudinal changes in functional brain activity in mothers responding to infant-related stimuli. However, the structural changes that occur in the brains of mothers after delivery remain to be explored. Objective: We aimed to evaluate the structural changes in mothers during the postpartum phase. Methods: We recruited 35 primiparous mothers and 26 nonmothers to participate in this voxel- and surface-based morphometry study, and 22 mothers were scanned twice with a follow-up of approximately 2 years. Results: Compared to nonmothers, mothers exhibited reduced gray matter (GM) volumes and increased white matter (WM) volumes in regions associated with empathy and reward networks (supplementary motor area, precuneus, inferior parietal lobe, insula, and striatum), decreased cortical thickness in the precentral gyrus and increased gyrification index in the orbitofrontal cortex. Furthermore, mothers showed longitudinal changes in the GM and WM volumes and cortical thickness of several of these regions (including the superior and medial frontal gyrus, insula, limbic lobe, superior and middle temporal gyrus, and precentral gyrus), which have been associated with maternal networks during the postpartum period. Additionally, the changes in GM and WM volumes were related to changes in empathetic abilities in mothers. Conclusion: These results suggest that the brains of mothers exhibit adaptive structural dynamic plasticity. These findings provide a neuroanatomical basis for understanding how mothers process emotional sensory information during the postpartum period.
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Humans show great interindividual variability in the degree they engage in social relationship. The neural basis of this variability is still poorly understood, particularly in children. In this study, we aimed to investigate the neural basis of interindividual variability in the first step of social behavior, that is social perception, in typically developing children. For that purpose, we first used eye-tracking to objectively measure eye-gaze processing during passive visualization of social movie clips in 24 children and adolescents (10.5 ± 2.9 y). Secondly, we correlated eye-tracking data with measures of fractional anisotropy, an index of white matter microstructure, obtained using diffusion tensor imaging MRI. The results showed a large interindividual variability in the number of fixations to the eyes of characters during visualization of social scenes. In addition, whole-brain analysis showed a significant positive correlation between FA and number of fixations to the eyes,mainly in the temporal part of the superior longitudinal fasciculi bilaterally, adjacent to the posterior superior temporal cortex. Our results indicate the existence of a neural signature associated with the interindividual variability in social perception in children, contributing for better understanding the neural basis of typical and atypical development of a broader social expertise.
Chapter
Eine zusammenhängende Theorie und eine sich daraus ergebende Praxis ist im Strukturkonzept Tree of Science vorgelegt. Dieses Konzept bildet eine Grundlage für eine systematische Reflexion, Diskussion und Weiterentwicklung. Die Grundprinzipien, die diese Struktur tragen, werden erläutert. Im Intersubjektivitätsprinzip wird auf die menschliche Existenz als gemeinsame Existenz hingewiesen. Das Bewusstseinsprinzip befasst die therapeutische Praxis mit dem Umgang von Bewusstheitsprozessen. Das Sozialitätsprinzip unterstreicht das soziale Wesen des Menschen, und die Sozialisation in der psychotherapeutischen Ausbildung wird kritisch hinterfragt. Weitere zentrale Charakteristika der Integrativen Therapie werden im Leiblichkeitsprinzip und Entwicklungsprinzip beschrieben. Vor diesem Hintergrund wird die Behandlung in der Integrativen Therapie durch ein Interaktionsmodell mit seinem Bezugsrahmen diskutiert. Die Entwicklung und Gliederung der veränderungswirksamen Heilfaktoren werden dargestellt.
Chapter
The relationship between politics and biopsychology is complex. But first, an explanation of biopsychology itself is in order. As a biopsychologist I have frequently been asked to explain my speciality even to other psychologists. Biopsychology is all about the biology of behavior, human and animal. Biopsychologists are trained in the methodology of behavioral research and in biology but are psychologists not biologists. There are neurological underpinnings to behavior and these are being explored vigorously. Neuroscience is the study of the brain and nervous system in relation to function and behavior. Political science and neuroscience have been connecting for the last decade (Arciniegas & Anderson, 2017; Chawke & Kanai, 2016; Fowler & Schreiber, 2008; Haas, 2016; McDermott, 2009; Pedersen, Muftuler, & Larson, 2018). Biopsychology is part of that mix (Jost, Nam, Amodio, & Bavel, 2014; Kandler, Bleidorn, & Riemann, 2012; Marcus, 2013; Norris, Gollan, Berntson, & Cacioppo, 2010; Settle, Dawes, Loewen, & Panagopoulos, 2017).
Article
Background Social impairments are important features of a substance use disorder diagnosis; and recent models suggest early impairments in socio-cognitive and -affective processes may predict future use. However, no systematic reviews are available on this topic. Methods We conducted a systematic review and meta-analyses exploring the association between social- cognitive and -affective processes (empathy, callous-unemotional (CU) traits, theory of mind, and social cognition) and substance use frequency (alcohol, cannabis, general drug use). We examined moderating effects of study design, gender, age, and whether conduct problems were controlled for. We also review brain studies related to social cognition and substance use disorder (SUD) risk. Results Systematic review suggested a negative association for positively valenced constructs with substance use but mixed results on the negatively valenced construct CU traits. Meta-analyses revealed a moderate positive association between CU traits with alcohol and general drug use but no significance with cannabis use. Moderate effect sizes were found for CU traits in youth predicting the severity of substance use by late adolescence and significantly accounted for variance independently of conduct problems. Significant moderators included gender proportions, sample type, and age. Neuroimaging meta-analysis indicated 10 coordinates that were different in youth at a high risk/with SUD compared to controls. Three of these coordinates associate with theory of mind and social cognition. Conclusion Socio-cognitive and -affective constructs demonstrate an association with current and future substance use, and neural differences are present when performing social cognitive tasks in regions with the strongest associations with theory of mind and social cognition.
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Empathic communication represents the first step of the “END” Communication procedure, which is followed by normalization and de-escalation communication. In this chapter, our view of empathy is conceived not only as an ability of inferring and representing the other one’s mental state but also all the interpersonal procedures and expressions given in a reciprocal and mutual communication. First, we focus on the theoretical aspects of empathic communication and even on practical aspects of this skill; that is not innate but can be learned. Then we present the neural basis of empathy, which are important for having a “neural guide” to address our communication procedures. In this chapter, we provide a number of case vignettes to better explain the difference between a “good/bad” communication and empathic communication and the different results in terms of compliance, therapeutic alliance and outcomes in crisis scenario. Furthermore, the chapter provides practical examples of “empathic” phrases that can be used by clinicians in emergency situations with psychiatric patients but even in other medical settings: the common fields of application of empathic communication basically involve all those contexts in which a healthcare professional-patient relationship is involved. Empathic communication has a cost for the clinician because if in several cases it is easy to represent the mental state of the other and tune in to it, in some cases it can be very difficult and constitute a considerable effort: that’s why we recommend a training and a careful supervision for clinicians and healthcare professionals.
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Previous research has highlighted that Emotional Intelligence (EI) is related to an array of positive interpersonal behaviours, including greater human empathy. Nonetheless, although animals are an integral part of our lives, there is still a lack of clarity regarding the way in which EI relates to empathy towards animals. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between EI and empathy towards humans and animals. We used the Trait-Meta Mood Scale to assess EI, the Interpersonal Reactivity Index to assess empathy for humans, and the Animal Empathy Scale to assess empathy for animals. Our findings revealed a positive relationship between empathy for humans and animals. The results also supported the idea that EI is positively related to empathy for humans, while the relationship between EI and empathy for animals was dependent on whether or not the participants had experience with pets. In addition, multiple regression analysis showed that the variables that best predicted empathy for animals were having a pet (or not), age, gender and human empathic concern. Finally, the relationship between human empathic concern and empathy for animals was stronger in participants who had pets. These findings provide a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying empathic behaviour and suggest that empathy for humans and animals can be influenced by different factors. Limitations and future lines of research are discussed.
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Reduced empathy and elevated alexithymia are observed in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which has been linked to altered asymmetry in brain morphology. Here, we investigated whether trait autism, empathy, and alexithymia in the general population is associated with brain morphological asymmetry. We determined left–right asymmetry indexes for cortical thickness and cortical surface area (CSA) and applied these features to a support-vector regression model that predicted trait autism, empathy, and alexithymia. Results showed that less leftward asymmetry of CSA in the gyrus rectus (a subregion of the orbitofrontal cortex) predicted more difficulties in social functioning, as well as reduced cognitive empathy and elevated trait alexithymia. Meta-analytic decoding of the left gyrus rectus annotated functional items related to social cognition. Furthermore, the link between gyrus rectus asymmetry and social difficulties was accounted by trait alexithymia and cognitive empathy. These results suggest that gyrus rectus asymmetry could be a shared neural correlate among trait alexithymia, cognitive empathy, and social functioning in neurotypical adults. Left–right asymmetry of gyrus rectus influenced social functioning by affecting the cognitive processes of emotions in the self and others. Interventions that increase leftward asymmetry of the gyrus rectus might improve social functioning for individuals with ASD.
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Despite much research on the neural underpinnings of empathy, little research in humans has directly explored the contribution of empathy to interpersonal distress regulation in the suffering target. A growing body of work now investigates interpersonal emotion regulation—how an individual influences and affects the emotions of another person. Here we argue that emotional and cognitive empathy play a major role in interpersonal emotion regulation. We propose a model of interpersonal emotion regulation that starts and ends with the distress of the target. The distress of the target evokes both emotional and cognitive empathy in the empathizer. Emotional empathy contributes to the reduction of distress by automatic empathic reactions (e.g., mimicry and social touch), which are prompted by the neural mechanisms underlying emotional empathy (based in the anterior insula, the dorsal-anterior/anterior-midcingulate cortex, and the inferior frontal gyrus). On the other hand, cognitive empathy contributes to interpersonal emotion regulation through more deliberate reactions, such as strategy selection, mediated by the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Through these separate mechanisms, emotional and cognitive empathy play unique roles in interpersonal emotion regulation, and differentially contribute to the reduction of distress in the target, which in turn leads to a reduction of empathetic arousal in the empathizer.
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Empathy is a construct applied to various phenomena that cover a broad spectrum ranging from experiencing emotions that match another individual's emotions, to feelings of concern for other people, to knowing what the other is thinking or feeling. Human empathy has deep evolutionary, biochemical, and neurological underpinnings and is mediated and moderated by multiple physiological and brain systems that have evolved from the neurobehavioral systems associated with social attachment and parental care. Sensitivity to signs of distress is processed by a network that partly overlaps with neural circuits involved in physical pain, including brain-stem regions, amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, insula, and orbitofrontal cortex.
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The phenomenon of empathy entails the ability to share the affective experiences of others. In recent years social neuroscience made considerable progress in revealing the mechanisms that enable a person to feel what another is feeling. The present review provides an in-depth and critical discussion of these findings. Consistent evidence shows that sharing the emotions of others is associated with activation in neural structures that are also active during the first-hand experience of that emotion. Part of the neural activation shared between self- and other-related experiences seems to be rather automatically activated. However, recent studies also show that empathy is a highly flexible phenomenon, and that vicarious responses are malleable with respect to a number of factors--such as contextual appraisal, the interpersonal relationship between empathizer and other, or the perspective adopted during observation of the other. Future investigations are needed to provide more detailed insights into these factors and their neural underpinnings. Questions such as whether individual differences in empathy can be explained by stable personality traits, whether we can train ourselves to be more empathic, and how empathy relates to prosocial behavior are of utmost relevance for both science and society.
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In the past decade, a flurry of empirical and theoretical research on morality and empathy has taken place, and interest and usage in the media and the public arena have increased. At times, in both popular culture and academia, morality and empathy are used interchangeably, and quite often the latter is considered to play a foundational role for the former. In this article, we argue that although there is a relationship between morality and empathy, it is not as straightforward as apparent at first glance. Moreover, it is critical to distinguish among the different facets of empathy (emotional sharing, empathic concern, and perspective taking), as each uniquely influences moral cognition and predicts differential outcomes in moral behavior. Empirical evidence and theories from evolutionary biology as well as developmental, behavioral, and affective and social neuroscience are comprehensively integrated in support of this argument. The wealth of findings illustrates a complex and equivocal relationship between morality and empathy. The key to understanding such relations is to be more precise on the concepts being used and, perhaps, abandoning the muddy concept of empathy.
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We meta-analyzed imaging studies on theory of mind and formed individual task groups based on stimuli and instructions. Overlap in brain activation between all task groups was found in the mPFC and in the bilateral posterior TPJ. This supports the idea of a core network for theory of mind that is activated whenever we are reasoning about mental states, irrespective of the task- and stimulus-formats (Mar, 2011). In addition, we found a number of task-related activation differences surrounding this core-network. ROI based analyses show that areas in the TPJ, the mPFC, the precuneus, the temporal lobes and the inferior frontal gyri have distinct profiles of task-related activation. Functional accounts of these areas are reviewed and discussed with respect to our findings.
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How does witnessing a hateful person in pain compare to witnessing a likable person in pain? The current study compared the brain bases for how we perceive likable people in pain with those of viewing hateful people in pain. While social bonds are built through sharing the plight and pain of others in the name of empathy, viewing a hateful person in pain also has many potential ramifications. In this functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) study, Caucasian Jewish male participants viewed videos of (1) disliked, hateful, anti-Semitic individuals, and (2) liked, non-hateful, tolerant individuals in pain. The results showed that, compared with viewing liked people, viewing hateful people in pain elicited increased responses in regions associated with observation of physical pain (the insular cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and the somatosensory cortex), reward processing (the striatum), and frontal regions associated with emotion regulation. Functional connectivity analyses revealed connections between seed regions in the left ACC and right insular cortex with reward regions, the amygdala, and frontal regions associated with emotion regulation. These data indicate that regions of the brain active while viewing someone in pain may be more active in response to the danger or threat posed by witnessing the pain of a hateful individual more so than the desire to empathize with a likable person's pain.
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Empathy is key for healthy social functioning and individual differences in empathy have strong implications for manifold domains of social behavior. Empathy comprises of emotional and cognitive components and may also be closely linked to sensorimotor processes, which go along with the motivation and behavior to respond compassionately to another person's feelings. There is growing evidence for local plastic change in the structure of the healthy adult human brain in response to environmental demands or intrinsic factors. Here we have investigated changes in brain structure resulting from or predisposing to empathy. Structural MRI data of 101 healthy adult females was analyzed. Empathy in fictitious as well as real-life situations was assessed using a validated self-evaluation measure. Furthermore, empathy-related structural effects were also put into the context of a functional map of the anterior insular cortex (AIC) determined by activation likelihood estimate (ALE) meta-analysis of previous functional imaging studies. We found that gray matter (GM) density in the left dorsal AIC correlates with empathy and that this area overlaps with the domain general region (DGR) of the anterior insula that is situated in-between functional systems involved in emotion-cognition, pain, and motor tasks as determined by our meta-analysis. Thus, we propose that this insular region where we find structural differences depending on individual empathy may play a crucial role in modulating the efficiency of neural integration underlying emotional, cognitive, and sensorimotor information which is essential for global empathy.
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Background: Psychopathic traits are associated with increases in antisocial behaviors such as aggression and are characterized by reduced empathy for others' distress. This suggests that psychopathic traits may also impair empathic pain sensitivity. However, whether psychopathic traits affect responses to the pain of others versus the self has not been previously assessed. Method: We used whole-brain functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure neural activation in 14 adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder and psychopathic traits, as well as 21 healthy controls matched on age, gender, and intelligence. Activation in structures associated with empathic pain perception was assessed as adolescents viewed photographs of pain-inducing injuries. Adolescents imagined either that the body in each photograph was their own or that it belonged to another person. Behavioral and neuroimaging data were analyzed using random-effects analysis of variance. Results: Youths with psychopathic traits showed reduced activity within regions associated with empathic pain as the depicted pain increased. These regions included rostral anterior cingulate cortex, ventral striatum (putamen), and amygdala. Reductions in amygdala activity particularly occurred when the injury was perceived as occurring to another. Empathic pain responses within both amygdala and rostral anterior cingulate cortex were negatively correlated with the severity of psychopathic traits as indexed by PCL:YV scores. Conclusions: Youths with psychopathic traits show less responsiveness in regions implicated in the affective response to another's pain as the perceived intensity of this pain increases. Moreover, this reduced responsiveness appears to predict symptom severity.
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Using the event-related potential (ERP) approach, we tracked the time-course of white participants’ empathic reactions to white (own-race) and black (other-race) faces displayed in a painful condition (i.e. with a needle penetrating the skin) and in a nonpainful condition (i.e. with Q-tip touching the skin). In a 280–340 ms time-window, neural responses to the pain of own-race individuals under needle penetration conditions were amplified relative to neural responses to the pain of other-race individuals displayed under analogous conditions. This ERP reaction to pain, whose source was localized in the inferior frontal gyrus, correlated with the empathic concern ratings of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index questionnaire. In a 400–750 ms time-window, the difference between neural reactions to the pain of own-race individuals, localized in the middle frontal gyrus and other-race individuals, localized in the temporoparietal junction was reduced to nil. These findings support a functional, neural and temporal distinction between two sequential processing stages underlying empathy, namely, a race-biased stage of pain sharing/mirroring followed by a race-unbiased stage of cognitive evaluation of pain.
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Understanding cues to the internal states of others involves a widely distributed network of brain regions. Although white matter (WM) connections are likely crucial for communication between these regions, the role of anatomical connectivity in empathic processing remains unexplored. The present study tested for a relationship between anatomical connectivity and empathy by assessing the WM microstructural correlates of affective empathy, which promotes interpersonal understanding through emotional reactions, and cognitive empathy, which does so via perspective taking. Associations between fractional anisotropy (FA) and the emotional (empathic concern, EC) and cognitive (perspective taking, PT) dimensions of empathy as assessed by the Interpersonal Reactivity Index were examined. EC was positively associated with FA in tracts providing communicative pathways within the limbic system, between perception and action-related regions, and between perception and affect-related regions, independently of individual differences in age, gender, and other dimensions of interpersonal reactivity. These findings provide a neuroanatomical basis for the rapid, privileged processing of emotional sensory information and the automatic elicitation of responses to the affective displays of others.
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Empathy refers to the ability to perceive and share another person's affective state. Much neuroimaging evidence suggests that observing others' suffering and pain elicits activations of the anterior insular and the anterior cingulate cortices associated with subjective empathetic responses in the observer. However, these observations do not provide causal evidence for the respective roles of anterior insular and anterior cingulate cortices in empathetic pain. Therefore, whether these regions are 'necessary' for empathetic pain remains unknown. Herein, we examined the perception of others' pain in patients with anterior insular cortex or anterior cingulate cortex lesions whose locations matched with the anterior insular cortex or anterior cingulate cortex clusters identified by a meta-analysis on neuroimaging studies of empathetic pain perception. Patients with focal anterior insular cortex lesions displayed decreased discrimination accuracy and prolonged reaction time when processing others' pain explicitly and lacked a typical interference effect of empathetic pain on the performance of a pain-irrelevant task. In contrast, these deficits were not observed in patients with anterior cingulate cortex lesions. These findings reveal that only discrete anterior insular cortex lesions, but not anterior cingulate cortex lesions, result in deficits in explicit and implicit pain perception, supporting a critical role of anterior insular cortex in empathetic pain processing. Our findings have implications for a wide range of neuropsychiatric illnesses characterized by prominent deficits in higher-level social functioning.
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Empathy--the ability to share the feelings of others--is fundamental to our emotional and social lives. Previous human imaging studies focusing on empathy for others' pain have consistently shown activations in regions also involved in the direct pain experience, particularly anterior insula and anterior and midcingulate cortex. These findings suggest that empathy is, in part, based on shared representations for firsthand and vicarious experiences of affective states. Empathic responses are not static but can be modulated by person characteristics, such as degree of alexithymia. It has also been shown that contextual appraisal, including perceived fairness or group membership of others, may modulate empathic neuronal activations. Empathy often involves coactivations in further networks associated with social cognition, depending on the specific situation and information available in the environment. Empathy-related insular and cingulate activity may reflect domain-general computations representing and predicting feeling states in self and others, likely guiding adaptive homeostatic responses and goal-directed behavior in dynamic social contexts.
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Empathy is a multi-faceted concept consisting of our ability not only to share emotions but also to exert cognitive control and perspective taking in our interactions with others. Here we examined whether inter-individual variability in different components of empathy was related to differences in brain structure assessed using voxel-based morphometry. Following a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, participants completed the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). Multiple regression was then used to assess the relationship between individual differences in grey matter volume and individual differences in empathy traits. We found that individual differences in affective empathic abilities oriented towards another person were negatively correlated with grey matter volume in the precuneus, inferior frontal gyrus, and anterior cingulate. Differences in self-oriented affective empathy were negatively correlated with grey matter volume of the somatosensory cortex, but positively correlated with volume in the insula; cognitive perspective taking abilities were positively correlated with grey matter volume of the anterior cingulate; and the ability to empathise with fictional characters was positively related to grey matter changes in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These findings are discussed in relation to neurocognitive models of empathy.
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Controversy surrounds the role of the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) area of the human brain. Although TPJ has been implicated both in reorienting of attention and social cognition, it is still unclear whether these functions have the same neural basis. Indeed, whether TPJ is a precisely identifiable cortical region or a cluster of subregions with separate functions is still a matter of debate. Here, we examined the structural and functional connectivity of TPJ, testing whether TPJ is a unitary area with a heterogeneous functional connectivity profile or a conglomerate of regions with distinctive connectivity. Diffusion-weighted imaging tractrography–based parcellation identified 3 separate regions in TPJ. Resting-state functional connectivity was then used to establish which cortical networks each of these subregions participates in. A dorsal cluster in the middle part of the inferior parietal lobule showed resting-state functional connectivity with, among other areas, lateral anterior prefrontal cortex. Ventrally, an anterior TPJ cluster interacted with ventral prefrontal cortex and anterior insula, while a posterior TPJ cluster interacted with posterior cingulate, temporal pole, and anterior medial prefrontal cortex. These results indicate that TPJ can be subdivided into subregions on the basis of its structural and functional connectivity.
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Empathizing is a quantitative trait involving understanding another's mental state (including their emotion) and responding to this with an appropriate emotion. A reliable, behaviorally validated self-report questionnaire measure of this is the Empathy Quotient (EQ), which is continuously distributed across the general population. The "discrete emotions" model posits that each "basic" emotion has a relatively independent evolutionary antecedent and social-communicative function and is subserved by a discrete neural system. In this study, we investigate if and how empathy influences the perception of basic emotions. Twenty-five volunteers (13 female, 12 male) selected across EQ space participated in a correlational design 3T fMRI study. The stimuli were presented in a box-car design, where 5 blocks (each containing 4 video clips of any one of happy, sad, angry, disgust or neutral expressions from different actors) and a low-level baseline were presented in pseudo-random order. Using an exploratory analysis, we found different brain regions correlated with EQ, depending on which emotion was being perceived. In particular, the ventral striatal response to happy faces correlated positively with EQ, while the ventral striatal response to sad faces was negatively correlated with EQ. The precuneus and lateral prefrontal cortical response to angry faces correlated positively with EQ. The response of the insula and the superior temporal gyrus cortex to disgust faces were negatively correlated with EQ. These results are discussed in the light of the postulated evolutionary function of each emotion. Using a hypothesis-driven conjunction analysis, we found that a region in the left dorsal inferior frontal gyrus/premotor cortex was positively correlated to the EQ across all four emotions. This region could therefore constitute a biomarker for trait empathy across emotions. We conclude that there are common regions underlying empathy across different emotions, and there are regions that show an emotion-specific correlation with empathy. This pattern of results is interpreted using a modification of Haxby et al.'s model of face perception.
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Empathy accounts for the naturally occurring subjective experience of similarity between the feelings expressed by self and others without loosing sight of whose feelings belong to whom. Empathy involves not only the affective experience of the other person's actual or inferred emotional state but also some minimal recognition and understanding of another's emotional state. In light of multiple levels of analysis ranging from developmental psychology, social psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and clinical neuropsychology, this article proposes a model of empathy that involves parallel and distributed processing in a number of dissociable computational mechanisms. Shared neural representations, self-awareness, mental flexibility, and emotion regulation constitute the basic macrocomponents of empathy, which are underpinned by specific neural systems. This functional model may be used to make specific predictions about the various empathy deficits that can be encountered in different forms of social and neurological disorders.
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Empathy has been inconsistently defined and inadequately measured. This research aimed to produce a new and rigorously developed questionnaire. Exploratory (n₁ = 640) and confirmatory (n₂ = 318) factor analyses were employed to develop the Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy (QCAE). Principal components analysis revealed 5 factors (31 items). Confirmatory factor analysis confirmed this structure in an independent sample. The hypothesized 2-factor structure (cognitive and affective empathy) was tested and provided the best and most parsimonious fit to the data. Gender differences, convergent validity, and construct validity were examined. The QCAE is a valid tool for assessing cognitive and affective empathy.
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The decision as to whether a sensation is perceived as painful does not only depend on sensory input but also on the significance of the stimulus. Here, we show that the degree to which an impending stimulus is interpreted as threatening biases perceptual decisions about pain and that this bias toward pain manifests before stimulus encounter. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging we investigated the neural mechanisms underlying the influence of an experimental manipulation of threat on the perception of laser stimuli as painful. In a near-threshold pain detection paradigm, physically identical stimuli were applied under the participants' assumption that the stimulation is entirely safe (low threat) or potentially harmful (high threat). As hypothesized, significantly more stimuli were rated as painful in the high threat condition. This context-dependent classification of a stimulus as painful was predicted by the prestimulus signal level in the anterior insula, suggesting that this structure integrates information about the significance of a stimulus into the decision about pain. The anticipation of pain increased the prestimulus functional connectivity between the anterior insula and the midcingulate cortex (MCC), a region that was significantly more active during stimulation the more a participant was biased to rate the stimulation as painful under high threat. These findings provide evidence that the anterior insula and MCC as a "salience network" integrate information about the significance of an impending stimulation into perceptual decision-making in the context of pain.
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Whilst recent neuroimaging studies have identified a series of different brain regions as being involved in empathy, it remains unclear concerning the activation consistence of these brain regions and their specific functional roles. Using MKDA, a whole-brain based quantitative meta-analysis of recent fMRI studies of empathy was performed. This analysis identified the dACC-aMCC-SMA and bilateral anterior insula as being consistently activated in empathy. Hypothesizing that what are here termed affective-perceptual and cognitive-evaluative forms of empathy might be characterized by different activity patterns, the neural activations in these forms of empathy were compared. The dorsal aMCC was demonstrated to be recruited more frequently in the cognitive-evaluative form of empathy, whilst the right anterior insula was found to be involved in the affective-perceptual form of empathy only. The left anterior insula was active in both forms of empathy. It was concluded that the dACC-aMCC-SMA and bilateral insula can be considered as forming a core network in empathy, and that cognitive-evaluative and affective-perceptual empathy can be distinguished at the level of regional activation.
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