Human-human and human-animal interactions: ERPs measures and empathic concern

Michela Balconi, Irene Venturella, Maria Elide Vanutelli

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaContributo a convegnopeer review


Empathy commonly refers to the emotional concern aroused by the affective state of another living person and its importance in creating meaningful social bonds led to the publication of a large amount of papers with the intent to explore brain mechanisms underlying these salient social interactions. Despite the great majority of studies focused on human-human contexts, we do not establish relations with only other humans, but also with non-human animals. The aim of the present work was to explore brain responses (Event-Related Potentials, ERPs: N300 and P300) involved in empathic resonance mechanisms between humans (human-human, HH) or between humans and animals (human-animal, HA) taking into account the specific role of DLPFC in response to interactions with different emotion valence (positive vs. negative). The second aim of this research was to explore the direct relation between the cortical response to high impact emotional contexts and the personality empathic profile as assessed by Balance Emotional Empathy Scale (BEES) and Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). To verify these effects, a 16-channel portable EEGSystem was used to record the electrocortical activity of 15 participants (7 females, 8 males) while passively viewing the affective interactions. Results showed that both HH and HA interactions elicited significant N300 and P300 peak amplitude increasing in response to positive and negative compared with neutral interactions. However, N300 was mainly related to valence effect, with increased peak amplitude for negative patterns (negativity bias), irrespectively from condition, and distributed over the frontal sites (left and right DLPFC). P300, instead, was modulated by the relevance of the interactive context independently from the valence effect and was frontally and parietally distributed. Finally a significant relation was found between emotional empathy trait (BEES) and N300 peak amplitude. These results are discussed in light of the significance that different species-specific and species-aspecific relationships have in establishing meaningful empathic responses.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)159-159
Numero di pagine1
RivistaNeuropsychological Trends
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2015
EventoXXIII Congresso Nazionale della Società Italiana di Psicofisiologia - SIPF - Lucca
Durata: 19 nov 201521 nov 2015


  • Empathy
  • Inter-species


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