The compassionate brain

humans detect intensity of pain from another's face

Miiamaaria V. Saarela, Yevhen Hlushchuk, Amanda C. de C Williams, Martin Schurmann, Eija Kalso, Riitta Hari

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    Abstract

    "Understanding another person's experience draws on ""mirroring systems,"" brain circuitries shared by the subject's own actions/feelings and by similar states observed in others. Lately, also the experience of pain has been shown to activate partly the same brain areas in the subjects' own and in the observer's brain. Recent studies show remarkable overlap between brain areas activated when a subject undergoes painful sensory stimulation and when he/she observes others suffering from pain. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we show that not only the presence of pain but also the intensity of the observed pain is encoded in the observer's brain-as occurs during the observer's own pain experience. When subjects observed pain from the faces of chronic pain patients, activations in bilateral anterior insula (AI), left anterior cingulate cortex, and left inferior parietal lobe in the observer's brain correlated with their estimates of the intensity of observed pain. Furthermore, the strengths of activation in the left Al and left inferior frontal gyrus during observation of intensified pain correlated with subjects' self-rated empathy. These findings imply that the intersubjective representation of pain in the human brain is more detailed than has been previously thought."
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalCerebral Cortex
    Volume17
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)230-237
    Number of pages8
    ISSN1047-3211
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2007
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Fields of Science

    • 3126 Surgery, anesthesiology, intensive care, radiology
    • 3124 Neurology and psychiatry

    Cite this

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    title = "The compassionate brain: humans detect intensity of pain from another's face",
    abstract = "{"}Understanding another person's experience draws on {"}{"}mirroring systems,{"}{"} brain circuitries shared by the subject's own actions/feelings and by similar states observed in others. Lately, also the experience of pain has been shown to activate partly the same brain areas in the subjects' own and in the observer's brain. Recent studies show remarkable overlap between brain areas activated when a subject undergoes painful sensory stimulation and when he/she observes others suffering from pain. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we show that not only the presence of pain but also the intensity of the observed pain is encoded in the observer's brain-as occurs during the observer's own pain experience. When subjects observed pain from the faces of chronic pain patients, activations in bilateral anterior insula (AI), left anterior cingulate cortex, and left inferior parietal lobe in the observer's brain correlated with their estimates of the intensity of observed pain. Furthermore, the strengths of activation in the left Al and left inferior frontal gyrus during observation of intensified pain correlated with subjects' self-rated empathy. These findings imply that the intersubjective representation of pain in the human brain is more detailed than has been previously thought.{"}",
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    The compassionate brain : humans detect intensity of pain from another's face. / Saarela, Miiamaaria V.; Hlushchuk, Yevhen; Williams, Amanda C. de C; Schurmann, Martin; Kalso, Eija; Hari, Riitta.

    In: Cerebral Cortex, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2007, p. 230-237.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - The compassionate brain

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    AU - Saarela, Miiamaaria V.

    AU - Hlushchuk, Yevhen

    AU - Williams, Amanda C. de C

    AU - Schurmann, Martin

    AU - Kalso, Eija

    AU - Hari, Riitta

    PY - 2007

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    AB - "Understanding another person's experience draws on ""mirroring systems,"" brain circuitries shared by the subject's own actions/feelings and by similar states observed in others. Lately, also the experience of pain has been shown to activate partly the same brain areas in the subjects' own and in the observer's brain. Recent studies show remarkable overlap between brain areas activated when a subject undergoes painful sensory stimulation and when he/she observes others suffering from pain. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we show that not only the presence of pain but also the intensity of the observed pain is encoded in the observer's brain-as occurs during the observer's own pain experience. When subjects observed pain from the faces of chronic pain patients, activations in bilateral anterior insula (AI), left anterior cingulate cortex, and left inferior parietal lobe in the observer's brain correlated with their estimates of the intensity of observed pain. Furthermore, the strengths of activation in the left Al and left inferior frontal gyrus during observation of intensified pain correlated with subjects' self-rated empathy. These findings imply that the intersubjective representation of pain in the human brain is more detailed than has been previously thought."

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    KW - 3124 Neurology and psychiatry

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