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J Neurosci. 2009 Jul 1;29(26):8525-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2418-09.2009.

Do you feel my pain? Racial group membership modulates empathic neural responses.

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Department of Psychology, Peking University, Beijing 100871, People's Republic of China.


The pain matrix including the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) mediates not only first person pain experience but also empathy for others' pain. It remains unknown, however, whether empathic neural responses of the pain matrix are modulated by racial in-group/out-group relationship. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging we demonstrate that, whereas painful stimulations applied to racial in-group faces induced increased activations in the ACC and inferior frontal/insula cortex in both Caucasians and Chinese, the empathic neural response in the ACC decreased significantly when participants viewed faces of other races. Our findings uncover neural mechanisms of an empathic bias toward racial in-group members.

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