Functional connectivity patterns of trait empathy are associated with age.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Brain Cogn, Volume 159, p.105859 (2022)


Adolescent, Adult, Brain, Brain Mapping, Empathy, Female, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Prefrontal Cortex


<p>Empathy is the capacity to feel and understand others' mental states. In some individuals, there is an imbalance between the affective and cognitive components of empathy, which can lead to deficits. This study investigated the functional connectivity of the anterior insula (AI) and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), which play key roles in empathy, in covariation with the affective and cognitive subscales of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), as a function of age and sex, as an exploratory analysis. Seed-based functional connectivity analyses were performed on 33 healthy participants that were subdivided according to their age (16 adults and 17 adolescents) and sex (16 women and 17 men). Adolescents reported lower cognitive empathy than adults and men less affective empathy than women. The connectivity of the dmPFC and AI, in covariation with the cognitive and affective subscales of empathy, respectively, differed between adolescents and adults, but was similar in men and women. Adolescents had patterns of negative covariations between the regions of interest and many brain regions associated with the default-mode and salience networks. These findings support that lower self-report levels of empathy in certain individuals could be reflected in the functional connectivity patterns of the dmPFC and AI.</p>

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