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tuesday :: december 10, 2002
> sympathy for a friend
neurophysiology of sympathy
:: patterns of brain activity

Neuroscientists trying to tease out the mechanisms underlying the basis of human sympathy have found that such feelings trigger brain activity not only in areas associated with emotion but also in areas associated with performing an action. But, when people act in socially inappropriate ways this activity is replaced by increased activity in regions associated with social conflict.

Understanding the neurophysiology of such basic human characteristics as sympathy is important because some people lack those feelings and may behave in anti-social ways that can be extremely costly to society, said Dr. Jean Decety, the lead author of the new study. In the study, Decety and Thierry Chaminade used positron emission tomography (PET) scans.

"Sympathy is a very basic way in which we are connected to other people," said Decety. "We feel more sympathy if the person we are interacting with is more like us. When people act in strange ways, you feel that person is not like you." >from "Search for sympathy uncovers patterns of brain activity*, december 2, 2002.

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