Rats and mice show robust emotional contagion by aligning their fear and pain to that of others.
Brain regions necessary for emotional contagion in rodents closely resemble those associated with human empathy; understanding the biology of emotional contagion in rodents can thus shed light on the evolutionary origin and mechanisms of human empathy.
Cingulate area 24 in rats and mice contains emotional mirror neurons that map the emotions of others onto the witnesses’ own emotions.
Emotional contagion prepares animals to deal with threats by using others as sentinels; the fact that rodents approach individuals in distress facilitates such contagion.
In some conditions, rats and mice learn to prefer actions that benefit others, with notable individual differences. This effect depends on structures that overlap with those of emotional contagion.