Hemispherically lateralized rhythmic oscillations in the cingulate-amygdala circuit drive affective empathy in mice.
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The brain circuit responsible for inducing fear in a mouse watching another mouse in distress has been identified.
Empathy allows us to resonate with the emotional states of others. In particular, fear is contagious. Researchers had previously found that a mouse seeing another mouse in some kind of distress exhibits a fear response.
Now, a team led by researchers from the Institute for Basic Science in South Korea has uncovered the brain circuit in mice that produces this ability to perceive and share fear. Specifically, they found that oscillations between two regions in the right half of the brain drive this empathetic response.
Since all mammals display a similar response to the distress of another, the researchers consider that a similar brain circuit plays an equivalent role in people. They also think that its disfunction could be behind psychiatric disorders that interfere with the ability to show empathy.
- Neuron 111, 418–429 (2023). doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2022.11.001