Different effects of stress on the brains of men and women related to empathy

The different effects of social stress on the brains of men and women are related to their response to empathy for pain, according to a study published this July in the International Journal of Psychophysiology. The study provides evidence that each sex may engage in distinct mechanisms to cope with stress.


Empathy is an essential aspect of social functioning. It allows people to build an understanding and mental representation of other peoples’ emotions and feelings. Research suggests that the brain mechanisms involved in how people empathize with others in painful circumstances involve two distinct responses.


Firstly, there is an early emotional response seen in front-central regions of the brain; and secondly, there is a later cognitive evaluation, over the parietal area, where attention is either directed towards or away from stimuli.