Monday, September 10, 2012

Pain and Empathy

Empathy activates some, but not all, of the brain’s pain-processing regions. If you grab a hot spoon handle, pain shoots into temperature receptors on your skin, through nerves, up your spine and into your brain. Some brain regions process where the pain comes from and how hot the spoon really was. Other regions process how unpleasant you felt the pain to be. Thus, how much the burn hurts and how bothersome this pain is differs for each situation and depends partly on what else is going on in your head and the environment. On the other hand, knowing that a loved one is in pain automatically activates the subjective pain-processing regions of your brain, which leads to empathy. But the areas involved in processing the exact location of the pain in your body as well as the objective intensity of the pain are involved only when you experience pain in yourself.

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