Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

J Neurophysiol. 2012 Oct;108(7):1805-7. doi: 10.1152/jn.00181.2012. Epub 2012 May 23

Fine-grained analysis of shared neural circuits between perceived and observed pain: implications for the study of empathy for pain

Feeling pain and seeing it in others activates largely overlapping neural substrates. A recent study (Corradi-Dell'Acqua C, Hofstetter C, Vuilleumier P. J Neurosci 31: 17996-18006, 2011) for the first time raises the question of whether shared neural activations specifically code pain-related contents or merely their negative-aversive implication. The authors conclude that mid-insula and mid-cingulate share information specific to the presence of pain, whereas anterior insula shares information about its aversive content. We suggest that, together with valence and arousal, the control of saliency and threat may have an important heuristic potential in the study of empathy for pain.

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