To What Extent is the Experience of Empathy Mediated by Shared Neural Circuits?

Emotion Review 2 (3):204-207 (2010)
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This paper selectively reviews the neurophysiological evidence for shared neural circuits (supposedly implemented by mirror neurons) as the mechanism underlying empathy. I will argue that while the mirror neuron system plays a role in motor resonance, it is not possible to conclude that this system is critically involved in emotion recognition, and there is little evidence for its role in empathy and sympathy. In addition, there is modest support from neurological observations that lesion of the regions involved in the mirror neuron system leads to dysfunction in empathy, whereas damage of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex is associated with such impairment. To significantly advance our understanding of the mechanisms underlying empathy, research needs finer conceptualization, better designed paradigms, and integration with knowledge from lesion studies



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