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Stimulating the brain to study social interactions and empathy.

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Source:

Brain Stimul, Volume 5, Issue 2, p.95-102 (2012)

Keywords:

Brain, Brain Mapping, Electric Stimulation, Empathy, Humans, Interpersonal Relations, Models, Neurological, Social Perception, Theory of Mind

Abstract:

<p>Empathy is a multi-dimensional concept allowing humans to understand the emotions of others and respond adaptively from a social perspective. This mental process, essential to social interactions, has attracted the attention of many scholars from different fields of study but the blooming interest for empathy in cognitive neurosciences has rekindled this interest. This paper reviews the growing literature stemming from studies using brain stimulation techniques that have investigated directly or indirectly the different components of empathy, including resonance, self-other discrimination, and mentalizing. Some studies have also ventured toward the modulation of this complex process and toward the investigation of different components in populations that show reduced empathic skills. We argue that brain stimulation techniques have the potential to make a unique contribution to the field of empathy research with their exclusive capacity, compared to other brain imaging techniques, to modulate the neural systems involved in the distinct components of this process. Provided the development of innovative ecological paradigms that will put people in actual social interactions as well as comprehensive and adaptive models that can integrate research from different domains, the ultimate goal of this research domain is to devise protocols that can modulate empathy in people with developmental, neurological and psychiatric disorders.</p>

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