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"Recent research shows that empathy gradually matures with the development of the brain"

Claudia Wassmann, 'Marie Curie' Fellow at the ICS of the University of Navarra, presented work by an expert from the University of Chicago at seminar .

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Claudia Wassman PHOTO: Manuel Castells

"In his recent article review on the evolutionary perspectives of empathy, Jean Decety has shown that this capacity and empathic behavior mature gradually with the development of the brain, from infancy to adulthood." This was indicated in a seminar Claudia Wassmann, researcher of the project 'Emotional culture and identity' of the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS) of the University of Navarra, that counts on the sponsorship of Zurich Insurance. During the activity she presented the most recent work of Jean Decety, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and co-director of research of the Brain Imaging Center of the University of Chicago (USA).

"Empathy is essential for successfully navigating the social world."

The expert, who comes from high school Max Planck For The development Human (Germany) and researches at campus Pamplona with a scholarship 'Marie Curie', recalled that neuroscientists define empathy as a capacity partner-emotional that allows perceiving, sharing and understanding the affective states of others. "It is essential for successfully navigating the social world," he said.

Dr. Wassmann noted that the University of Chicago specialist mentions three main components that develop gradually as the brain matures and remain active at different Degrees during adulthood: affective arousal, empathic understanding, and reaction to pain. "These three processes," he notes, "subsume different sets of interconnected and interacting brain regions that are involved in empathic reactions. 

Acting on the needs of others

Thus, he commented that newborns experience affective arousal when, for example, they begin to cry when they hear other infants doing so. At two or three years of age, "children show empathic reactions to the perceived distress of others, which is known as empathic understanding". And in the reaction to the pain of others "we are not only capable of understanding the mental or emotional states of others, but we also act in response to the needs we perceive," clarified the ICS specialist.

In that sense, he emphasized that "empathic concern involves awareness of one's own emotions and the feelings of others and includes a motivation to engage in prosocial behavior, helping the other to alleviate their pain."

Claudia Wassmann holds a PhD in Medicine from the Free University of Berlin and a PhD in History of Science from the University of Chicago (USA). high school In the United States she has developed her postdoctoral research and professional activity at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and before studying History she was Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).