MIT Neuroscientists Study Brain Activity to Learn About Empathy

MIT neuroscientists are studying the patterns of brain activity that correlate with empathy. They hope to use their findings to determine how well people respond to reconciliation programs aimed at boosting empathy between groups in conflict, since compassion for others suffering often fails between members of opposing conflict groups.


MIT postdoc Emile Bruneau has long been drawn to conflict — not as a participant, but an observer. In 1994, while doing volunteer work in South Africa, he witnessed firsthand the turmoil surrounding the fall of apartheid; during a 2001 trip to visit friends in Sri Lanka, he found himself in the midst of the violent conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan military.