Vicarious responses to pain in anterior cingulate cortex: Is empathy a multisensory issue?

  • India Morrison
  • Donna Lloyd
  • Giuseppe Di Pellegrino
  • Neil Roberts


Results obtained with functional magnetic resonance imaging show that both feeling a moderately painful pinprick stimulus to the fingertips and witnessing another person’s hand undergo similar stimulation are associated with common activity in a pain-related area in the right dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Common activity in response to noxious tactile and visual stimulation was restricted to the right inferior Brodmann’s area 24b. These results suggest a shared neural substrate for felt and seen pain for aversive ecological events happening to strangers and in the absence of overt symbolic cues. In contrast to ACC 24b, the primary somatosensory cortex showed significant activations in response to both noxious and innocuous tactile, but not visual, stimuli. The different response patterns in the two areas are consistent with the ACC’s role in coding the motivational-affective dimension of pain, which is associated with the preparation of behavioral responses to aversive events.


Anterior Cingulate Cortex Mirror Neuron Primary Somatosensory Cortex Dorsal Anterior Cingulate Cortex Percent Signal Change 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • India Morrison
    • 3
  • Donna Lloyd
    • 1
  • Giuseppe Di Pellegrino
    • 2
  • Neil Roberts
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LiverpoolLiverpoolEngland
  2. 2.University of UrbinoUrbinoItaly
  3. 3.Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, School of PsychologyUniversity of Wales, BangorGwyneddU.K.

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