Heirarchies of empathy in the brain

Following the previous post I thought it would be useful to pass on more of Panskepp’s review, which provides a more general description:

There is a growing recognition of how animals respond to the affective states of other animals, including the show of empathy, a state once thought to be unique to primates…


A key question concerns the nature of the rats’ motivations—the affective and cognitive underpinnings of their “empathy.”


…Future research needs to untangle whether empathic responses in mammals arise more from higher cognitive or lower affective brain functions, or some combination of these (see the figure). Human brain imaging studies of empathy suggest both are involved, especially in coping with the distress of others. But solid neurobiologically based evolutionary evidence, both bottom-up and top-down, is so far lacking.


Deric Bownds’ MindBlog: