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Insula and somatosensory cortical myelination and iron markers underlie individual differences in empathy

Allen, M; Frank, D; Glen, JC; Fardo, F; Callaghan, MF; Rees, G; (2017) Insula and somatosensory cortical myelination and iron markers underlie individual differences in empathy. Scientific Reports , 7 , Article ARTN 433. 10.1038/srep43316. Green open access

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Abstract

Empathy is a key component of our ability to engage and interact with others. In recent years, the neural mechanisms underlying affective and cognitive empathy have garnered intense interest. This work demonstrates that empathy for others depends upon a distributed network of regions such as the insula, parietal cortex, and somatosensory areas, which are also activated when we ourselves experience an empathized-with emotion (e.g., pain). Individuals vary markedly in their ability to empathize with others, which predicts the tendency to help others and relates to individual differences in the neuroanatomy of these areas. Here, we use a newly developed, high-resolution (800 μm isotropic), quantitative MRI technique to better elucidate the neuroanatomical underpinnings of individual differences in empathy. Our findings extend previous studies of the neuroanatomical correlates of cognitive and affective empathy. In particular, individual differences in cognitive empathy were associated with markers of myeloarchitectural integrity of the insular cortex, while affective empathy was predicted by a marker of iron content in second somatosensory cortex. These results indicate potential novel biomarkers of trait empathy, suggesting that microstructural features of an empathy and body-related network are crucial for understanding the mental and emotional states of others.

Type: Article
Title: Insula and somatosensory cortical myelination and iron markers underlie individual differences in empathy
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/srep43316
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep43316
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: Science & Technology, Multidisciplinary Sciences, Science & Technology - Other Topics, MULTIPLE-SCLEROSIS BRAIN, VARYING FLIP ANGLES, SPINAL-CORD-INJURY, MAGNETIZATION-TRANSFER, IN-VIVO, INTERINDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES, EMOTIONAL EMPATHY, NEURAL RESPONSES, STRUCTURAL BASIS, SPOILED FLASH
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1544782
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