Finding the Brain’s Generosity Center

Summary: A new study reveals a brain area that lights up when we do good for others is more active in empathetic people.


However, this region of the brain was not equally active in every person. People who rated themselves as having higher levels of empathy learnt to benefit others faster than those who reported having lower levels of empathy. They also showed increased signalling in their subgenualanterior cingulate cortex when benefitting others.’


‘This the first time anyone has shown a particular brain process for learning prosocial behaviours – and a possible link from empathy to learning to help others. By understanding what the brain does when we do things for other people, and individual differences in this ability, we are better placed to understand what is going wrong in those whose psychological conditions are characterised by antisocial disregard for others.’


Original Research: Abstract for “Neurocomputational mechanisms of prosocial learning and links to empathy” by Patricia L. Lockwood, Matthew A. J. Apps, Vincent Valton, Essi Viding, and Jonathan P. Roiser in PNAS. Published online August 15 2016 doi:10.1073/pnas.1603198113