Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Training brain patterns of empathy using functional brain imaging

Date:
May 21, 2014
Source:
Instituto D'Or de Pesquisa e Ensino (IDOR)
Summary:
An unprecedented research conducted by a group of neuroscientists has demonstrated that it is possible to train brain patterns associated with empathic feelings. Volunteers who received neurofeedback about their own brain activity patterns whilst being scanned inside a functional magnetic resonance machine were able to increase empathic brain states. These findings could open new possibilities for treatment of clinical situations, such as antisocial personality disorder and postpartum depression.

An unprecedented research conducted by a group of neuroscientists has demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to train brain patterns associated with empathic feelings -- more specifically, tenderness. The research showed that volunteers who received neurofeedback about their own brain activity patterns whilst being scanned inside a functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) machine were able to change brain network function of areas related to tenderness and affection felt toward loved ones. These significant findings could open new possibilities for treatment of clinical situations, such as antisocial personality disorder and postpartum depression.

In Ridley Scott's film "Blade Runner," based on the science fiction book 'Do androids dream of electric sheep?' by Philip K. Dick, empathy-detection devices are employed to measure tenderness or affection emotions felt toward others (called "affiliative" emotions). Despite recent advances in neurobiology and neurotechnology, it is unknown whether brain signatures of affiliative emotions can be decoded and voluntarily modulated.

The article entitled "Voluntary enhancement of neural signatures of affiliative emotion using fMRI neurofeedback" published in PLOS ONE is the first study to demonstrate through a neurotechnology tool, real-time neurofeedback using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), the possibility to help the induction of empathic brain states.

The authors conducted this research at the D'Or Institute for Research and Education where a sophisticated computational tool was designed and used to allow the participants to modulate their own brain activity related to affiliative emotions and enhance this activity. This method employed pattern-detection algorithms, called "support vector machines" to classify complex activity patterns arising simultaneously from tenths of thousands of voxels (the 3-D equivalent of pixels) inside the participants' brains.

Volunteers who received real time information of their ongoing neural activity could change brain network function among connected areas related to tenderness and affection felt toward loved ones, while the control group who performed the same fMRI task without neurofeedback did not show such improvement.

Thus, it was demonstrated that those who received a "real" feedback were able to "train" specific brain areas related to the experience of affiliative emotions that are key for empathy. These findings can lead the way to new opportunities to investigate the use of neurofeedback in conditions associated with reduced empathy and affiliative feelings, such as antisocial personality disorders and post-partum depression.

The authors point out that this study may represent a step towards the construction of the 'empathy box', an empathy-enhancing machine described by Philip K. Dick's novel.

The paper can be found in PLOS ONE website on May 21, 2014.

The study was supported by Foundation for Research Support in the State of Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ) and D'Or Institute for Research and Education (IDOR).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Instituto D'Or de Pesquisa e Ensino (IDOR). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jorge Moll, Julie H. Weingartner, Patricia Bado, Rodrigo Basilio, João R. Sato, Bruno R. Melo, Ivanei E. Bramati, Ricardo de Oliveira-Souza, Roland Zahn. Voluntary Enhancement of Neural Signatures of Affiliative Emotion Using fMRI Neurofeedback. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (5): e97343 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097343

Cite This Page:

Instituto D'Or de Pesquisa e Ensino (IDOR). "Training brain patterns of empathy using functional brain imaging." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140521180016.htm>.
Instituto D'Or de Pesquisa e Ensino (IDOR). (2014, May 21). Training brain patterns of empathy using functional brain imaging. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140521180016.htm
Instituto D'Or de Pesquisa e Ensino (IDOR). "Training brain patterns of empathy using functional brain imaging." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140521180016.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) — An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins