The Anatomy of Suffering: Understanding the Relationship between Nociceptive and Empathic Pain

Jamil Zaki, Tor D Wager, Tania Singer, Christian Keysers, V. Gazzola

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

Pain features centrally in numerous illnesses and generates enormous public health costs. Despite its ubiquity, the psychological and neurophysiological nature of pain remains controversial. Here, we survey one controversy in particular: the relation between nociceptive pain, which is somatic in origin, and empathic pain, which arises from observing others in pain. First, we review evidence for neural overlap between nociceptive and empathic pain and what this overlap implies about underlying mental representations. Then, we propose a framework for understanding the nature of the psychological and neurophysiological correspondence across these types of 'pain'. This framework suggests new directions for research that can better identify shared and dissociable representations underlying different types of distress, and can inform theories about the nature of pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-59
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Volume20
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

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