Inability to empathize: brain lesions that disrupt sharing and understanding another’s emotions

Emotional empathy—the ability to recognize, share in, and make inferences about another person’s emotional state—is critical for all social interactions.

The neural mechanisms underlying emotional empathy have been widely studied with functional imaging of healthy participants. However, functional imaging studies reveal correlations between areas of activation and performance of a task, so that they can only reveal areas engaged in a task, rather than areas of the brain that are critical for the task.

Lesion studies complement functional imaging, to identify areas necessary for a task. Impairments in emotional empathy have been mostly studied in neurological diseases with fairly diffuse injury, such as traumatic brain injury, autism and dementia. The classic ‘focal lesion’ is stroke.  

 

===========================

Emotional empathy — the ability to recognize,

share in, and make inferences about another

person’s emotional state—

is critical for all social interactions.

===============


Argye E. Hillis