Your Pain, My Brain

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When something hurts you, I feel it too. So suggests research by Sean Mackey, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Stanford University, who discovered that when people see others in pain, they show patterns of brain activation similar to patterns observed when they themselves are suffering.

Researchers scanned the brains of 14 subjects while they watched videos of people being injured in situations such as car crashes and sport events. The same subjects' brains were studied as researchers placed a painfully hot instrument on their arms. A comparison of the scans revealed that areas of the brain responsible for processing sensory and emotional aspects of pain were activated.

Mackey suggests this overlap represents a neurological expression of empathy, which may serve to bind people socially.

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