Hearing others’ pain: neural activity related to empathy.

The human voice is one of the principal conveyers of social and affective communication. Recent neuroimaging studies have suggested that observing pain in others activates neural representations similar to those from the first-hand experience of pain; however, studies on pain expressions in the auditory channel are lacking.

 

We conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging study to examine brain responses to emotional exclamations of others’ pain. The control condition comprised positive (e.g., laughing) or negative (e.g., snoring) stimuli of the human voice that were not associated with pain and suffering.

 

…The left anterior insular and thalamic activations correlated significantly with the Empathic Concern subscale of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index.