A physician's ability to empathize may be in the genes

A physician's ability to empathize may be in the genes

(HealthDay)—Sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) is associated with increased activation of brain regions involved in awareness, attention, and action planning, according to a study published online June 23 in Brain and Behavior.

Noting that self-report studies show high-SPS individuals are strongly affected by others' moods, Bianca P. Acevedo, Ph.D., from the University of California in Santa Barbara, and colleagues examined the of SPS, measured by the standard short-form Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) scale. The functional magnetic resonance imaging study was conducted in 18 participants (10 female) who viewed photos of their romantic partners and of strangers displaying positive, negative, or neutral facial expressions. Thirteen of the 18 participants were scanned twice, one year apart.

The researchers found that HSP scores correlated with increased in the cingulate and premotor area (involved in attention and action planning) across all conditions. SPS correlated with activation of regions involved in awareness, integration of sensory information, empathy, and action planning for happy and sad photo conditions. HSP scores correlated with stronger activation of involved in awareness, empathy, and self-other processing for partner images and happy facial photos.

"We found that areas of the brain involved with awareness and emotion, particularly those areas connected with empathetic feelings, in the highly sensitive people showed substantially greater blood flow to relevant brain areas than was seen in individuals with low sensitivity during the 12 second period when they viewed the photos," a coauthor said in a statement. "This is physical evidence within the brain that highly sensitive individuals respond especially strongly to social situations that trigger emotions, in this case of faces being happy or sad."

More information: Abstract
Full Text

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Brain regions sensitive to facial color processing

Jun 25, 2014

Toyohashi Tech researchers in cooperation with researchers at National Institute for Physiological Sciences have found brain regions sensitive to natural-colored faces rather than bluish-colored face. These ...

Sensitive people may use their brains differently

Apr 08, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- An exploratory study has examined highly sensitive people and found the first evidence of neural differences between them and less sensitive people. Most studies have focused on the social ...

Recommended for you

Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D may control brain serotonin

14 hours ago

Although essential marine omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D have been shown to improve cognitive function and behavior in the context of certain brain disorders, the underlying mechanism has been unclear. In a new paper published ...

Researchers develop method for mapping neuron clusters

17 hours ago

A team of scientists has developed a method for identifying clusters of neurons that work in concert to guide the behavior. Their findings, which appear in the journal Neuron, address a long-standing mystery about the or ...

One brain area, two planning strategies

20 hours ago

Ready to strike, the spear fisherman holds his spear above the water surface. He aims at the fish. But he is misled by the view: Due to the refraction of light on the surface, he does not see the actual location ...

Study maps extroversion types in the brain's anatomy

Feb 26, 2015

Everyday experience and psychological studies alike tell us that there are two different types of extroverts: The gregarious "people-persons" who find reward in sharing affection and affiliation with others, ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.