Mouse Brains Wired for Empathy?
Nature Neuroscience, Vol. 13, pg. 406–408.
François Grenier and Andreas Lüthi
A study in this issue reports that mice can
be fear conditioned through observation of other mice receiving
aversive stimuli and identifies some of the brain regions involved in
this observational fear learning.
Do mice have empathy? This question
may elicit a wide range of answers, including “yes, of course”,
“impossible” and “we'll never know”. One of the reasons behind such a
diversity of opinions is simply a matter of definition. Empathy implies
at least some emotional sensitivity in an individual to the affective
state of another. But emotional sensitivity to another can refer to
many specific phenomena. Some are automatic, such as emotional
contagion (for example, babies starting to cry when they hear another
baby crying), whereas others have a strong cognitive component, such as
sympathy and compassion. Some apply the term empathy to a wide range of
these phenomena (for example, see refs. 1,2).
Others prefer to restrict it to a more specific case with criteria such
as a similarity between the emotional states of the observer and the
observed, and the understanding that the affective state of one was
produced by observation of the other (for example, ref. 3). The latter definition would seem to apply almost exclusively to humans. So what about some form of empathy in mice?..."
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(Something interesting I found)Posted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010