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      Sympathy Crying: Insights from Infrared Thermal Imaging on a Female Sample

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          Abstract

          Sympathy crying is an odd and complex mixture of physiological and emotional phenomena. Standard psychophysiological theories of emotion cannot attribute crying to a single subdivision of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and disagreement exists regarding the emotional origin of sympathy crying. The current experiment examines sympathy crying using functional thermal infrared imaging (FTII), a novel contactless measure of ANS activity. To induce crying female participants were given the choice to decide which film they wanted to cry to. Compared to baseline, temperature started increasing on the forehead, the peri-orbital region, the cheeks and the chin before crying and reached even higher temperatures during crying. The maxillary area showed the opposite pattern and a gradual temperature decrease was observed compared to baseline as a result of emotional sweating. The results suggest that tears of sympathy are part of a complex autonomic interaction between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems, with the latter preceding the former. The emotional origin of the phenomenon seems to derive from subjective internal factors that relate to one’s personal experiences and attributes with tears arising in the form of catharses or as part of shared sadness.

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          Most cited references 42

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          Autonomic nervous system activity in emotion: A review

          Autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity is viewed as a major component of the emotion response in many recent theories of emotion. Positions on the degree of specificity of ANS activation in emotion, however, greatly diverge, ranging from undifferentiated arousal, over acknowledgment of strong response idiosyncrasies, to highly specific predictions of autonomic response patterns for certain emotions. A review of 134 publications that report experimental investigations of emotional effects on peripheral physiological responding in healthy individuals suggests considerable ANS response specificity in emotion when considering subtypes of distinct emotions. The importance of sound terminology of investigated affective states as well as of choice of physiological measures in assessing ANS reactivity is discussed. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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            The somatic marker hypothesis and the possible functions of the prefrontal cortex.

             A Damasio (1996)
            In this article I discuss a hypothesis, known as the somatic marker hypothesis, which I believe is relevant to the understanding of processes of human reasoning and decision making. The ventromedial sector of the prefrontal cortices is critical to the operations postulated here, but the hypothesis does not necessarily apply to prefrontal cortex as a whole and should not be seen as an attempt to unify frontal lobe functions under a single mechanism. The key idea in the hypothesis is that 'marker' signals influence the processes of response to stimuli, at multiple levels of operation, some of which occur overtly (consciously, 'in mind') and some of which occur covertly (non-consciously, in a non-minded manner). The marker signals arise in bioregulatory processes, including those which express themselves in emotions and feelings, but are not necessarily confined to those alone. This is the reason why the markers are termed somatic: they relate to body-state structure and regulation even when they do not arise in the body proper but rather in the brain's representation of the body. Examples of the covert action of 'marker' signals are the undeliberated inhibition of a response learned previously; the introduction of a bias in the selection of an aversive or appetitive mode of behaviour, or in the otherwise deliberate evaluation of varied option-outcome scenarios. Examples of overt action include the conscious 'qualifying' of certain option-outcome scenarios as dangerous or advantageous. The hypothesis rejects attempts to limit human reasoning and decision making to mechanisms relying, in an exclusive and unrelated manner, on either conditioning alone or cognition alone.
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              Mirror neurons and the simulation theory of mind-reading.

               V Gallese (1998)
              A new class of visuomotor neuron has been recently discovered in the monkey's premotor cortex: mirror neurons. These neurons respond both when a particular action is performed by the recorded monkey and when the same action, performed by another individual, is observed. Mirror neurons appear to form a cortical system matching observation and execution of goal-related motor actions. Experimental evidence suggests that a similar matching system also exists in humans. What might be the functional role of this matching system? One possible function is to enable an organism to detect certain mental states of observed conspecifics. This function might be part of, or a precursor to, a more general mind-reading ability. Two different accounts of mind-reading have been suggested. According to `theory theory', mental states are represented as inferred posits of a naive theory. According to `simulation theory', other people's mental states are represented by adopting their perspective: by tracking or matching their states with resonant states of one's own. The activity of mirror neurons, and the fact that observers undergo motor facilitation in the same muscular groups as those utilized by target agents, are findings that accord well with simulation theory but would not be predicted by theory theory.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                1932-6203
                7 October 2016
                2016
                : 11
                : 10
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Alfaisal University, Department of Physiological Sciences, College of Medicine, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
                [2 ]Department of Psychology-Centre for Situated Action and Communication, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, United Kingdom
                [3 ]Parma University, Department of Neuroscience, Section of Human Physiology, Parma, Italy
                [4 ]Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, University of London, London, United Kingdom
                University of Bologna, ITALY
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                • Conceptualization: PM SI.

                • Data curation: SI ST.

                • Formal analysis: PM SI ST.

                • Funding acquisition: VG VR.

                • Investigation: ST PM.

                • Methodology: SI.

                • Project administration: PM.

                • Resources: VR VG.

                • Software: SI.

                • Supervision: SI PM.

                • Validation: SI ST PM.

                • Visualization: MB.

                • Writing – original draft: SI.

                • Writing – review & editing: PM SI.

                Article
                PONE-D-16-24439
                10.1371/journal.pone.0162749
                5055358
                27716801
                © 2016 Ioannou et al

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 2, Tables: 6, Pages: 15
                Product
                Funding
                This work was supported by the Marie-Curie Initial Training Network, TESIS: Toward an Embodied Science of Inter-Subjectivity (FP7-PEOPLE-2010-ITN, 264828).
                Categories
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                Data are available through Figshare (DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.3798336).

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