There are two types of empathy: emotional and rational. Emotional empathy means one can actually feel another’s emotions. Rational empathy is when one tries to understand another’s emotions intellectually.
The brains of people who respond rationally to emotions are different from those who respond emotionally, the study found.
The study examined whether people with more brain cells in certain areas respond in different ways to emotional stimuli.
Researchers found that people with higher gray matter density in the insula — an area important for the emotions — displayed more emotional empathy.
Those showing more rational empathy had higher gray matter density in the midcingulate cortex.
Mr Eres said:
“Every day people use empathy with, and without, their knowledge to navigate the social world.
We use it for communication, to build relationships, and consolidate our understanding of others.
In the future we want to investigate causation by testing whether training people on empathy related tasks can lead to changes in these brain structures and investigate if damage to these brain structures, as a result of a stroke for example, can lead to empathy impairments.”