Recently Monash University researchers, in Australia, they have found physical differences in the brain of people who respond more emotionally to the feelings of others (emotional empathy), compared to those who respond more rationally (cognitive empathy).
Affective empathy and cognitive empathy
In this study, directed by Robert Eres of the Monash School of Psychological Sciences, correlations between gray matter density and cognitive and affective empathy have been identified.
"The people who are at the top of emotional empathy are those who quickly feel fear when they watch a horror movie, or start crying in front of sad scenes. Those who have high cognitive empathy instead, are the ones who are most rational, for example, as a clinical psychologist when he advises a patient, "explained Mr. Eres.
This study shows a relationship in which people who have more brain cells In certain areas of the brain, they are better at different types of empathy.
The researchers used voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to examine the extent to which gray matter density in 176 participants, and their scores were predicted in tests that rated their levels of cognitive empathy compared to emotional or emotional.
The results showed that people with high marks of the emotional empathy they had a higher density of gray matter in the insula, a region located right in the "middle" of the brain. Those who scored higher for cognitive empathy had a higher density in the middle cingular cortex, an area above the corpus callosum, which connects the two hemispheres of the brain.
"Together, these results provide validation that empathy is a multi-component construct, both emotional empathy and cognitive empathy have brain morphological differences, which provide evidence that empathy is represented by neuronal differences and structural correspondences. "suggests the study.
The results raise more questions about whether some types of empathy could be increased by mental training, or if people can lose their capacity for empathy if they don't use enough.
In the future they want to continue investigating to find out if there is the possibility of training skilled people in tasks related to empathy, and that they can lead to changes in these brain structures and investigate whether damage to these brain structures, as a result of a stroke For example, it can lead to losses of the level of empathy.
Source: Monash University
LeDoux, J.E. (1999).Emotional brain. Barcelona: Ariel / Planet