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      Pictures of pain: their contribution to the neuroscience of empathy.

      Brain : a journal of neurology
      Oxford University Press (OUP)
      empathy, history of neurology, networks, pain, pictures

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          Abstract

          The study of empathy, a translation of the term 'Einfühlung', originated in 19th century Germany in the sphere of aesthetics, and was followed by studies in psychology and then neuroscience. During the past decade the links between empathy and art have started to be investigated, but now from the neuroscientific perspective, and two different approaches have emerged. Recently, the primacy of the mirror neuron system and its association with automaticity and imitative, simulated movement has been envisaged. But earlier, a number of eminent art historians had pointed to the importance of cognitive responses to art; these responses might plausibly be subserved by alternative neural networks. Focusing here mainly on pictures depicting pain and evoking empathy, both approaches are considered by summarizing the evidence that either supports the involvement of the mirror neuron system, or alternatively suggests other neural networks are likely to be implicated. The use of such pictures in experimental studies exploring the underlying neural processes, however, raises a number of concerns, and suggests caution is exercised in drawing conclusions concerning the networks that might be engaged. These various networks are discussed next, taking into account the affective and sensory components of the pain experience, before concluding that both mirror neuron and alternative neural networks are likelyto be enlisted in the empathetic response to images of pain. A somewhat similar duality of spontaneous and cognitive processes may perhaps also be paralleled in the creation of such images. While noting that some have repudiated the neuroscientific approach to the subject, pictures are nevertheless shown here to represent an unusual but invaluable tool in the study of pain and empathy.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          Brain
          Brain : a journal of neurology
          Oxford University Press (OUP)
          1460-2156
          0006-8950
          Mar 2015
          : 138
          : Pt 3
          Article
          awu395
          10.1093/brain/awu395
          4408436
          25614024
          10fde238-2b62-4ccf-884d-37f25f7d278b
          History

          empathy,history of neurology,networks,pain,pictures
          empathy, history of neurology, networks, pain, pictures

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