Scientists believe two regions of the brain, the anterior insular cortex and the anterior cingulated cortex, play important roles in creating awareness of one’s own emotional state and the feelings of others. Scientists have also learned that regions of the brain can be “trained” to increase or decrease empathetic response.
Our goal is to:
These studies will lead to novel interventions and practical techniques, distributed using innovative social networks, to enhance empathic and compassionate behaviors.
Compassion and empathy comprise a set of interpersonal processes through which "perceivers" (individuals focusing on another person’s internal states) relate to "targets" (individuals who are the focus of perceivers’ attention).
Our central hypothesis is that individual differences in levels of empathy and compassion are due to variability in the degree to which brain systems are engaged in processing experience sharing, mentalizing, and prosocial concern.
These component processes can be measured in the laboratory and observed in the real world. We hope to link the variation in these processes to individual differences in self-reported compassion and empathy and to develop a neural systems model predicting individual variability in multi-level assessments of compassion and empathy.