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Pain. 2010 Feb;148(2):268-74. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2009.11.007. Epub 2009 Dec 11.

Pain sensation evoked by observing injury in others.

Author information

1
School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, UK.

Abstract

Observing someone else in pain produces a shared emotional experience that predominantly activates brain areas processing the emotional component of pain. Occasionally, however, sensory areas are also activated and there are anecdotal reports of people sharing both the somatic and emotional components of someone else's pain. Here we presented a series of images or short clips depicting noxious events to a large group of normal controls. Approximately one-third of this sample reported an actual noxious somatic experience in response to one or more of the images or clips. Ten of these pain responders were subsequently recruited and matched with 10 non-responders to take part in an fMRI study. The subjects were scanned while observing static images of noxious events. In contrast with emotional images not containing noxious events the responders activated emotional and sensory brain regions associated with pain while the non-responders activated very little. These findings provide convincing evidence that some people can readily experience both the emotional and sensory components of pain during observation of other's pain resulting in a shared physical pain experience.

PMID:
20005042
DOI:
10.1016/j.pain.2009.11.007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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