I-Yun Chen1, Kun-Hsien Chou2, Chun-Wei Lan3, Ya-Wei Cheng1, Ching-Po Lin1,3
1Institute of Neuroscience, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan; 2Institute of Biomedical Engineering, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan; 3Institute of Biomedical imaging and Radiological Sciences, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan
Being in a close relationship is essential to human life. Such closeness can be described as including other in the self. To what extent does imagining a loved one differ from imagining an unfamiliar individual being in painful situations? In this functional MRI study, participants were exposed to animated stimuli depicting hands or feet in painful and non-painful situations, and instructed to imagine the scenarios perceived from three different perspectives: self, loved one and stranger. The results demonstrate that interpersonal relationships and intimacy affect top-down processing of empathy, as indicated by greater overlap between neural representations of self and other.