Social cognitive neuroscience of empathy: concepts, circuits, and genes

Emotion Review 4 (1):9-17 (2012)

Abstract

This article reviews concepts of, as well as neurocognitive and genetic studies on, empathy. Whereas cognitive empathy can be equated with affective theory of mind, that is, with mentalizing the emotions of others, affective empathy is about sharing emotions with others. The neural circuits underlying different forms of empathy do overlap but also involve rather specific brain areas for cognitive (ventromedial prefrontal cortex) and affective (anterior insula, midcingulate cortex, and possibly inferior frontal gyrus) empathy. Furthermore, behavioral and imaging genetic studies provide evidence for a genetic basis for empathy, indicating a possible role for oxytocin and dopamine as well as for a genetic risk variant for schizophrenia near the gene ZNF804A

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