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Mirror-touch synesthesia is linked with empathy

Nature Neuroscience volume 10, pages 815816 (2007) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Watching another person being touched activates a similar neural circuit to actual touch and, for some people with 'mirror-touch' synesthesia, can produce a felt tactile sensation on their own body. In this study, we provide evidence for the existence of this type of synesthesia and show that it correlates with heightened empathic ability. This is consistent with the notion that we empathize with others through a process of simulation.

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Acknowledgements

M.J.B. is supported by an Economic and Social Research Council studentship.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychology, University College London, 26 Bedford Way, London, WC1H OAP, UK.

    • Michael J Banissy
    •  & Jamie Ward

Authors

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Contributions

M.J.B. conducted the experiments. J.W. devised the concept. The authors contributed equally in all other respects.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael J Banissy.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Figure 1

    Relationship between percentage of mirror-touch errors across each behavioural measure and scores on the emotional reactivity subscale of the EQ.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Table 1

    Participant details for the ten cases of mirror-touch synaesthesia.

  3. 3.

    Supplementary Table 2

    Mean reaction times (± SD) on human trials within the faces experiment when control data was assigned to anatomical or specular spatial congruence according to the direction of difference between incongruent and congruent trials.

  4. 4.

    Supplementary Table 3

    Mean reaction times (± SD) when discriminating the location of tap given to the left hand or right hand on left-right discrimination control blocks.

  5. 5.

    Supplementary Methods

  6. 6.

    Supplementary Results

About this article

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn1926

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