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Empathy for Pain: And its Neural Correlates
University of Skövde, School of Bioscience.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The phenomenon of empathy has been fascinating laymen and scholars for centuries and has recently been an important subject for cognitive neuroscientific study. Empathy refers to the ability to understand and share others’ emotions and a characteristic of this ability is the capacity to empathize with others in pain. This review intends to examine and read up on the current state of the field of the neural and behavioral mechanisms associated with empathy for pain. The neural underpinnings of the first-hand experience of pain have been shown to be activated in a person observing the suffering individual, and this similarity in brain activity has been referred to as shared networks. This phenomenon plays an important role in the study of empathy. However, different factors have been shown to influence empathy for pain, such as age, gender, affective link between observer and sufferer, as well as phylogenetic similarity. This thesis discusses these differences, as well as atypical aspects affecting the empathic ability such as synaesthesia for pain, psychopathy and Asperger’s disease. Further, empathy for pain can be modulated by the individual observing someone in pain. For example, caregivers often down-regulate their empathic response to patients in pain, possibly in order to focus on their treatment and assistance. Also, paying attention to harmful stimuli heightens the perception of pain; therefore, the painful experience can be less remarkable when focusing on something else. The effect of empathy from others directed to oneself when suffering is discussed, as well as the consistency and limitations of presented research.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 51 p.
Keyword [en]
empathy, pain, shared networks, pain matrix, empathy for pain
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:his:diva-12795OAI: diva2:953860
Subject / course
Cognitive Neuroscience
Educational program
Consciousness Studies - Philosophy and Neuropsychology
Available from: 2016-08-22 Created: 2016-08-18 Last updated: 2016-08-22Bibliographically approved

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