Humans may be hard-wired to experience empathy, according to a new study
by researchers in England. Using neuroimaging techniques to eavesdrop on the
brain, Tania Singer, PhD, and colleagues at University College of London discovered
that seeing a loved one in pain activates some of the same brain areas that
are mobilized when we experience pain ourselves (Science. 2004;303:1157-1162) .
In a study of 16 male-female couples, the investigators attached electrodes
designed to deliver painful stimulation (resembling a needle prick) to the
right hand. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to determine which
areas of the brain were activated when the woman received a painful stimulus,
when she was signaled that she was about to be zapped, and when she saw a
signal that her partner was receiving the painful stimulus.
Stephenson J. Pain and the Brain. JAMA. 2004;291(11):1313. doi:10.1001/jama.291.11.1313-b