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Neural mechanisms necessary for empathy-related phenomena across species

Research group Keysers
Publication year 2021
Published in Current Opinion in Neurobiology
Authors Enrica Paradiso, V. Gazzola, Christian Keysers

The neural basis of empathy and prosociality has received much interest over the past decades. Neuroimaging studies localized a network of brain regions with activity that correlates with empathy. Here, we review how the emergence of rodent and nonhuman primate models of empathy-related phenomena supplements human lesion and neuromodulation studies providing evidence that activity in several nodes is necessary for these phenomena to occur. We review proof that (i) affective states triggered by the emotions of others, (ii) motivations to act in ways that benefit others, and (iii) emotion recognition can be altered by perturbing brain activity in many nodes identified by human neuroimaging, with strongest evidence for the cingulate and the amygdala. We also include evidence that manipulations of the oxytocin system and analgesics can have such effects, the latter providing causal evidence for the recruitment of an individual’s own nociceptive system to feel with the pain of others.

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