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J Neurosci. 2010 Mar 10;30(10):3739-44. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4844-09.2010.

Functional dissociation of the frontoinsular and anterior cingulate cortices in empathy for pain.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029, USA.


The frontoinsular cortex (FI) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) are thought to be involved in empathy for others' pain. However, the functional roles of FI and ACC in empathetic responses have not yet been clearly dissociated in previous studies. In this study, participants viewed color photographs depicting human body parts in painful or nonpainful situations and performed either pain judgment (painful/nonpainful) or laterality judgment (left/right) of the body parts. We found that activation of FI, rather than ACC, showed significant increase for painful compared with nonpainful images, regardless of the task requirement. Our data suggest a clear functional dissociation between FI and ACC in which FI is more domain-specific than ACC when processing empathy for pain.

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