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.
Figure - a, Illustration of Caucasian faces receiving painful and non-painful stimuli. b, Illustration of Chinese faces receiving painful and non-painful stimuli. c, Contrast values of the parameter estimates of signal intensity in the ACC and the frontal cortex that differentiated painful and non-painful stimuli in Caucasians. d, Contrast values of the parameter estimates of signal intensity in the ACC and the frontal cortex that differentiated painful and non-painful stimuli in Chinese. e, Correlation between ACC empathic neural responses to racial in-group and out-group members. X and Y axes respectively indicate ACC empathic responses to racial in-group and racial out-group members indexed in contrast values of painful versus non-painful stimulation. f, Increased activations in the ACC and the frontal/insula cortex shown in whole-brain statistical parametric mapping analyses when participants perceived racial in-group faces. The upper figures show the results from Caucasian subjects and the lower figures show the results from Chinese subjects.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Racial group membership modulates empathic brain responses.
From Xu et al.: