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Journal Article

The neural basis of empathy


Bernhardt,  Boris C.
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;


Singer,  Tania
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Bernhardt, B. C., & Singer, T. (2012). The neural basis of empathy. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 35, 1-23. doi:10.1146/annurev-neuro-062111-150536.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-14EF-C
Empathy - the ability to share the feelings of others - is fundamental to our emotional and social lives. Previous imaging studies focusing on empathy for pain in others 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 first-hand and vicarious experience of affective states. Empathic responses are not static, but can be modulated by person characteristics such as degree of Alexithymia and contextual appraisal including perceived fairness or group membership of others. Empathy often involves co-activations in further networks associated to 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.