Nicolas Danziger, Isabelle Faillenot, and Roland Peyron.

Theories of empathy differ regarding the relative contributions of automatic resonance and perspective taking in understanding others’ emotions. Patients with the rare syndrome of congenital insensitivity to pain cannot rely on ‘‘mirror matching’’ (i.e., resonance) mechanisms to understand the pain of others. Nevertheless, they showed normal fMRI responses to observed pain in anterior mid-cingulate cortex and anterior insula, two key regions of the so-called ‘‘shared circuits’’ for self and other pain. In these patients (but not in healthy controls), empathy trait predicted ventromedial prefrontal responses to somatosensory representations of others’ pain and posterior cingulate responses to emotional representations of others’ pain. These findings underline the major role of midline structures in emotional perspective taking and understanding someone else’s feeling despite the lack of any previous personal experience of it—an empathic challenge frequently raised during human social interactions.

Article here.