Is there a core neural network in empathy? An fMRI based quantitative meta-analysis. Neurosci Biobehav Rev

Institute of Mental Health Research, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada.
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews (Impact Factor: 8.8). 10/2010; 35(3):903-11. DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.10.009
Source: PubMed


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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    • "Interestingly, this network seems independent of whether spontaneous or instructed empathizing is tested (Fan et al. 2011). As pointed out earlier, a distinction between isomorphic and complementary emotions has been suggested in the conceptual specification of empathy (de Vignemont and Singer 2006). "
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    • "and Ohm ( 2000 ) reported that femininity is associated with adjectives such as gentleness , sensitivity , shyness , tenderness and warmth . Thus femininity might have evoked greater empathy in the participants , which would explain the greater activations in the structures that are regarded as parts of the empathic core , that is the ACC and AI ( Fan et al . , 2011 ; Lamm et al . , 2011 ) , in the case of the more attractive woman , who was judged as more feminine than the less attractive female model . Similar results were obtained in the striatum , which is involved in both compassion and in the brain reward circuit . The activity in the caudate nucleus and putamen were greater for the less attr"
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