The neural correlates of understanding the other's distress: A positron emission tomography investigation of accurate empathy

S. G. Shamay-Tsoory, H. Lester, R. Chisin, O. Israel, R. Bar-Shalom, A. Peretz, R. Tomer, Z. Tsitrinbaum, J. Aharon-Peretz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of the present study was to assess the relationship between brain metabolism and empathic response. Six right-handed healthy volunteers were scanned with PET and fluorodeoxyglucose twice: during an interview about neutral story themes and during an empathic response eliciting interview about a story of a character in distress. Metabolic values in the medial and superior frontal gyrus, occipitotemporal cortices, thalamus and the cerebellum were higher during empathic response than during the neutral theme interview. Furthermore, the subjects' empathy scores were positively correlated with metabolism in the medial aspects of the superior frontal gyrus. Our results suggest that empathy consists of both affective and cognitive components and hence may involve cortices that mediate simulation of emotional processing and mental state attribution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)468-472
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Aug 2005


  • Empathy
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Simulation
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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