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Neurosci Lett. 2009 Jun 26;457(2):107-10. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2009.03.090. Epub 2009 Apr 1.

Subgenual cingulate activity reflects individual differences in empathic concern.

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The University of Manchester, School of Psychological Sciences, Neuroscience and Aphasia Research Unit, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK.


Recent fMRI studies linked subgenual cingulate cortex (SCC) activity with feelings of guilt for acting counter to social values and altruistic donations towards societal causes. We hypothesized that SCC activity across those different tasks was driven by feelings of attachment. In order to investigate this further, we used fMRI to probe the association of empathic concern and strength of SCC activation in response to guilt- and compassion-evoking verbal descriptions of social behaviour. We were able to confirm our prediction that participants with higher empathic concern had increased activity in the SCC in the guilt condition, whereas there was no association for compassion. These results shed new light on the role of the SCC which shows abnormalities in clinical depression.

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