Empathy during consoling touch is modulated by mu-rhythm: An EEG study

L. Peled-Avron, P. Goldstein, S. Yellinek, I. Weissman-Fogel, S. G. Shamay-Tsoory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The aim of the present study was to examine the mechanisms of empathy for pain that contribute to consoling touch, a distress-alleviating contact behavior carried out by an observer in response to the suffering of a target. We tested romantic couples in a paradigm that involves consoling touch and examined the attenuation of the mu/alpha rhythm (8–13 Hz) in the consoling partner. During the task, the toucher either held the consoled partner's right hand (human touch) or held onto the armrest of the chair (non-human touch), while the consoled partner experienced inflicted pain (pain condition) or did not experience any pain (no-pain condition). In accordance with our hypotheses, the results revealed an interaction between touch and pain at in mu/alpha rhythms in all central sites (C3, C4, Cz). Specifically, we found that the toucher's mu suppression was higher in the consoling touch condition, i.e., while touching the partner who is in pain, compared to the three control conditions. Additionally, we found that in the consoling touch condition, mu suppression at electrode C4 of the toucher correlated with a measure of situational empathy. Our findings suggest that electrophysiological and behavioral measures that have been associated with empathy for pain are modulated during consoling touch.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-74
Number of pages7
JournalNeuropsychologia
Volume116
DOIs
StatePublished - 31 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Binational Science Foundation (BSF) grant number 2015068 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Consolation
  • EEG
  • Empathy
  • Mu suppression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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