Report on "Love hurts: An fMRI Study"*
How much we relate to someone else or engage with them correlates to the amount of intimacy we feel when interacting with or thinking of that person. We are more intimate with loved ones than with strangers and this translates into how much empathy we feels towards them and how much compassion we can generate for that person. Cheng, et al. in their article “Love hurts: An fMRI study” describe the mechanism of intimacy “as including the other in the self...” They specifically studied empathy of pain, looking at the neural network involved in the “pain matrix”.
They discovered that not only does imagining a love one in pain cause greater activity in the pain matrix, but it also causes less activation in those regions associated with distinguishing self from another, such as the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) which is involved with an individual’s Theory of Mind, “allowing overlap between self and the other”.
From the direction of compassion development, one obstacle to empathic growth towards strangers rests in difficulty of evoking a stranger's perspective. Specifically, as those portions of our neural network are dampened in activity when we think of strangers, how can we overcome that in a productive way in order to foster compassion development?
* Love hurts: An fMRI study
Yawei Cheng a,b,⁎,1, Chenyi Chen a,1, Ching-Po Lin a, Kun-Hsien Chou c, Jean Decety d
a Institute of Neuroscience, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan
b Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, National Yang-Ming University Hospital, Yilan, Taiwan
c Institute of Biomedical engineering, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan
d Departments of Psychology & Psychiatry, and Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, the University of Chicago, IL, USA
a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t
Received 15 September 2009
Revised 10 February 2010
Accepted 16 February 2010
Available online 24 February 2010