Functional dissociation of the frontoinsular and anterior cingulate cortices in empathy for pain

J Neurosci. 2010 Mar 10;30(10):3739-44. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4844-09.2010.


The frontoinsular cortex (FI) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) are thought to be involved in empathy for others' pain. However, the functional roles of FI and ACC in empathetic responses have not yet been clearly dissociated in previous studies. In this study, participants viewed color photographs depicting human body parts in painful or nonpainful situations and performed either pain judgment (painful/nonpainful) or laterality judgment (left/right) of the body parts. We found that activation of FI, rather than ACC, showed significant increase for painful compared with nonpainful images, regardless of the task requirement. Our data suggest a clear functional dissociation between FI and ACC in which FI is more domain-specific than ACC when processing empathy for pain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Empathy / physiology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Pilot Projects
  • Young Adult