ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2012, Vol. 20 ›› Issue (12): 2011-2021.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2012.02011

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Neurobiological Underpinnings of Empathy

PAN Yan-Gu;LIU Yan-Ling;MA Jian-Ling;RAN Guang-Ming;LEI Hao   

  1. (Research Center of Mental Health Education, Department of Psychology, Southwest University; Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality of Ministry of Education, Chongqing 400715, China)
  • Received:2012-03-05 Online:2012-12-15 Published:2012-12-15
  • Contact: LIU Yan-Ling

Abstract: Empathy occurs when an observer perceives or imagines someone else’s affect and this triggers a response such that the observer partially feels what the target is feeling. It includes two independent elements: emotional empathy and cognitive empathy. Neural network of emotional empathy includes AI, ACC and MNS. The main brain region of cognitive empathy is vmPFC. Neural network of empathy matures gradually in the individual development and it is regulated by cognitive appraisal. Oxytocin and gene polymorphism of oxytocin receptor relate to empathy closely. Future researches need to focus on the function of somatosensory cortex on pain empathy, neural network difference between empathy and personal emotions, facilitation of oxytocin on defective individual’s empathy ability, relationship between gene polymorphism and neural network of empathy by using imaging genetic technology and improvement of ecological validity of empathy research paradigm.

Key words: empathy, brain mechanism, neurodevelopment, cognitive regulation, oxytocin