The neural networks underlying reappraisal of empathy for pain

Navot Naor, Christiane Rohr, Lina H. Schaare, Chirag Limbachia, Simone Shamay-Tsoory, Hadas Okon-Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emotion regulation plays a central role in empathy. Only by successfully regulating our own emotions can we reliably use them in order to interpret the content and valence of others’ emotions correctly. In an functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)-based experiment, we show that regulating one’s emotion via reappraisal modulated biased emotional intensity ratings following an empathy for pain manipulation. Task-based analysis revealed increased activity in the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) when painful emotions were regulated using reappraisal, whereas empathic feelings that were not regulated resulted in increased activity bilaterally in the precuneus, supramarginal gyrus and middle frontal gyrus (MFG), as well as the right parahippocampal gyrus. Functional connectivity analysis indicated that the right IFG plays a role in the regulation of empathy for pain, through its connections with regions in the empathy for pain network. Furthermore, these connections were further modulated as a function of the type of regulation used: in sum, our results suggest that accurate empathic judgment (i.e. empathy that is unbiased) relies on a complex interaction between neural regions involved in emotion regulation and regions associated with empathy for pain. Thus, demonstrating the importance of emotion regulation in the formulation of complex social systems and sheds light on the intricate network implicated in this complex process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-744
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - 24 Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


  • Emotion regulation
  • Empathy
  • GPPI
  • IFG
  • Reappraisal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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