Some people really do feel the pain of others



London, Dec 23: About one in three people actually feel physical discomfort when they see someone else in agony, scientists have claimed.


The finding, by Dr Stuart Derbyshire, a psychologist at the University of Birmingham, may help explain why some people are more empathetic to other people's misery.

To reach the conclusion, Derbyshire and colleagues invited 123 university students to watch video clips and photographs of patients and sports stars in painful situations, reports The Telegraph.

Close to one-third of the students said that, for at least one image, they not only had an emotional reaction, but also fleetingly felt pain in the same site as the injury in the image, the researchers reported in the journal Pain.

Researchers then took functional MRI scans of 10 of these "responders," along with 10 "non-responders" who reported no pain while viewing the images.

Functional MRI charts changes in brain blood flow, allowing researchers to see which brain areas become more active in response to a particular stimulus. Here, the researchers scanned participants' brains as they viewed either images of people in pain, images that were emotional but not painful, or neutral images.

The investigators found that while viewing the painful images, both responders and non-responders showed activity in the emotional centers of the brain. But responders showed greater activity in pain-related brain regions compared with non-responders, and as compared with their own brain responses to the emotional images.


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