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"Feeling" the pain of those who are different from us: Modulation of EEG in the mu/alpha range


Perry, A; Bentin, S; Bartal, I B; Lamm, C; Decety, J (2010). "Feeling" the pain of those who are different from us: Modulation of EEG in the mu/alpha range. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, 10(4):493-504.

Abstract

We explored how apparently painful stimuli and the ability to identify with the person on whom the pain is inflicted modulate EEG suppression in the mu/alpha range (8-12 Hz). In a 2 × 2 design, we presented pictures of hands either experiencing needle pricks or being touched by a Q-tip. In the dissimilar-other condition, the hand was assigned to a patient suffering from a neurological disease in which Q-tips inflicted pain, whereas needle pricks did not. In the similar-other condition, the hand was assigned to a patient who responded to stimulation in the same way as the healthy participant. Participants were instructed to imagine the feeling of the person whose hand was shown and to evaluate his or her affective state. Pain conditions elicited greater EEG suppression than did nonpain conditions, particularly over frontocentral regions. Moreover, an interaction between pain and similarity revealed that for similar others, the pain effect was significant, whereas in the dissimilar-other group, suppression was equally large in the pain and no-pain conditions. We conclude that mu/alpha suppression is elicited both automatically, by observing a situation that is potentially painful for the observer, and by empathy for pain, even if the other person is different from oneself.

Abstract

We explored how apparently painful stimuli and the ability to identify with the person on whom the pain is inflicted modulate EEG suppression in the mu/alpha range (8-12 Hz). In a 2 × 2 design, we presented pictures of hands either experiencing needle pricks or being touched by a Q-tip. In the dissimilar-other condition, the hand was assigned to a patient suffering from a neurological disease in which Q-tips inflicted pain, whereas needle pricks did not. In the similar-other condition, the hand was assigned to a patient who responded to stimulation in the same way as the healthy participant. Participants were instructed to imagine the feeling of the person whose hand was shown and to evaluate his or her affective state. Pain conditions elicited greater EEG suppression than did nonpain conditions, particularly over frontocentral regions. Moreover, an interaction between pain and similarity revealed that for similar others, the pain effect was significant, whereas in the dissimilar-other group, suppression was equally large in the pain and no-pain conditions. We conclude that mu/alpha suppression is elicited both automatically, by observing a situation that is potentially painful for the observer, and by empathy for pain, even if the other person is different from oneself.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
08 University Research Priority Programs > Foundations of Human Social Behavior: Altruism and Egoism
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2010
Deposited On:21 Jan 2011 15:44
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 04:38
Publisher:Psychonomic Society
ISSN:1530-7026
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3758/CABN.10.4.493
PubMed ID:21098810

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