Limits...
What are you feeling? Using functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess the modulation of sensory and affective responses during empathy for pain.

Lamm C, Nusbaum HC, Meltzoff AN, Decety J - PLoS ONE (2007)

Bottom Line: Perceiving non-painful injections into the anesthetized hand also led to signal increase in large parts of the pain matrix, suggesting an automatic affective response to the putatively harmful stimulus.This automatic response was modulated by areas involved in self/other distinction and valence attribution - including the temporo-parietal junction and medial orbitofrontal cortex.They stress the role of cognitive processing in empathy, and shed light on how emotional and bodily awareness enable us to evaluate the sensory and affective states of others.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology and Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America.

ABSTRACT

Background: Recent neuroscientific evidence suggests that empathy for pain activates similar neural representations as the first-hand experience of pain. However, empathy is not an all-or-none phenomenon but it is strongly malleable by interpersonal, intrapersonal and situational factors. This study investigated how two different top-down mechanisms - attention and cognitive appraisal - affect the perception of pain in others and its neural underpinnings.

Methodology/principal findings: We performed one behavioral (N = 23) and two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments (N = 18). In the first fMRI experiment, participants watched photographs displaying painful needle injections, and were asked to evaluate either the sensory or the affective consequences of these injections. The role of cognitive appraisal was examined in a second fMRI experiment in which participants watched injections that only appeared to be painful as they were performed on an anesthetized hand. Perceiving pain in others activated the affective-motivational and sensory-discriminative aspects of the pain matrix. Activity in the somatosensory areas was specifically enhanced when participants evaluated the sensory consequences of pain. Perceiving non-painful injections into the anesthetized hand also led to signal increase in large parts of the pain matrix, suggesting an automatic affective response to the putatively harmful stimulus. This automatic response was modulated by areas involved in self/other distinction and valence attribution - including the temporo-parietal junction and medial orbitofrontal cortex.

Conclusions/significance: Our findings elucidate how top-down control mechanisms and automatic bottom-up processes interact to generate and modulate other-oriented responses. They stress the role of cognitive processing in empathy, and shed light on how emotional and bodily awareness enable us to evaluate the sensory and affective states of others.

Show MeSH

Related in: MedlinePlus

Behavioral data from fMRI experiment II.Injections led to high intensity and unpleasantness ratings, while rated pain intensity for the numbed hand stimuli is close to zero. Note also that although the unpleasantness ratings for the numbed hand stimuli are significantly smaller than for the injection stimuli, they are substantially high and significantly different from zero.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection


getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2144768&req=5

pone-0001292-g003: Behavioral data from fMRI experiment II.Injections led to high intensity and unpleasantness ratings, while rated pain intensity for the numbed hand stimuli is close to zero. Note also that although the unpleasantness ratings for the numbed hand stimuli are significantly smaller than for the injection stimuli, they are substantially high and significantly different from zero.

Mentions: In the second fMRI experiment (Figure 3), injections into a numbed hand were perceived as non-painful, but considerably unpleasant – while injections into a hand that was not numbed were perceived as both highly painful and unpleasant (main effect numbed vs. non-numbed: F(1,16) = 404.426, P<0.001, η2 = 0.962; rating/intensity vs. unpleasantness: F(1,16) = 90.444, P<0.001, η2 = 0.850; significant interaction appraisal×rating: F(1,16) = 145.33, P<0.001, η2 = 0.901; significant post-hoc test contrasting injections into non-numbed vs. numbed hands for unpleasantness ratings, F(1,16) = 90.444, P<0.001). Again, scores did not significantly change over the course of the experiment. Note that due to excessive movement during experiment II, one participant had to be excluded from all analyses.


What are you feeling? Using functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess the modulation of sensory and affective responses during empathy for pain.

Lamm C, Nusbaum HC, Meltzoff AN, Decety J - PLoS ONE (2007)

Behavioral data from fMRI experiment II.Injections led to high intensity and unpleasantness ratings, while rated pain intensity for the numbed hand stimuli is close to zero. Note also that although the unpleasantness ratings for the numbed hand stimuli are significantly smaller than for the injection stimuli, they are substantially high and significantly different from zero.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2144768&req=5

pone-0001292-g003: Behavioral data from fMRI experiment II.Injections led to high intensity and unpleasantness ratings, while rated pain intensity for the numbed hand stimuli is close to zero. Note also that although the unpleasantness ratings for the numbed hand stimuli are significantly smaller than for the injection stimuli, they are substantially high and significantly different from zero.
Mentions: In the second fMRI experiment (Figure 3), injections into a numbed hand were perceived as non-painful, but considerably unpleasant – while injections into a hand that was not numbed were perceived as both highly painful and unpleasant (main effect numbed vs. non-numbed: F(1,16) = 404.426, P<0.001, η2 = 0.962; rating/intensity vs. unpleasantness: F(1,16) = 90.444, P<0.001, η2 = 0.850; significant interaction appraisal×rating: F(1,16) = 145.33, P<0.001, η2 = 0.901; significant post-hoc test contrasting injections into non-numbed vs. numbed hands for unpleasantness ratings, F(1,16) = 90.444, P<0.001). Again, scores did not significantly change over the course of the experiment. Note that due to excessive movement during experiment II, one participant had to be excluded from all analyses.

Bottom Line: Perceiving non-painful injections into the anesthetized hand also led to signal increase in large parts of the pain matrix, suggesting an automatic affective response to the putatively harmful stimulus.This automatic response was modulated by areas involved in self/other distinction and valence attribution - including the temporo-parietal junction and medial orbitofrontal cortex.They stress the role of cognitive processing in empathy, and shed light on how emotional and bodily awareness enable us to evaluate the sensory and affective states of others.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology and Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America.

ABSTRACT

Background: Recent neuroscientific evidence suggests that empathy for pain activates similar neural representations as the first-hand experience of pain. However, empathy is not an all-or-none phenomenon but it is strongly malleable by interpersonal, intrapersonal and situational factors. This study investigated how two different top-down mechanisms - attention and cognitive appraisal - affect the perception of pain in others and its neural underpinnings.

Methodology/principal findings: We performed one behavioral (N = 23) and two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments (N = 18). In the first fMRI experiment, participants watched photographs displaying painful needle injections, and were asked to evaluate either the sensory or the affective consequences of these injections. The role of cognitive appraisal was examined in a second fMRI experiment in which participants watched injections that only appeared to be painful as they were performed on an anesthetized hand. Perceiving pain in others activated the affective-motivational and sensory-discriminative aspects of the pain matrix. Activity in the somatosensory areas was specifically enhanced when participants evaluated the sensory consequences of pain. Perceiving non-painful injections into the anesthetized hand also led to signal increase in large parts of the pain matrix, suggesting an automatic affective response to the putatively harmful stimulus. This automatic response was modulated by areas involved in self/other distinction and valence attribution - including the temporo-parietal junction and medial orbitofrontal cortex.

Conclusions/significance: Our findings elucidate how top-down control mechanisms and automatic bottom-up processes interact to generate and modulate other-oriented responses. They stress the role of cognitive processing in empathy, and shed light on how emotional and bodily awareness enable us to evaluate the sensory and affective states of others.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus