empathymirror2A person's brain works hard to empathize or understand what it's like to walk in other people's shoes, no matter how different they may be, a new study indicates.

In a paper, published online by Cerebral Cortex, USC researchers found that empathy between two people who can relate to each other more directly relies primarily on the intuitive, sensory-motor parts of the brain. A person who empathizes with someone who is very different or with whom they cannot directly relate, however, depends more on the rationalizing part of the brain.

In conducting the study, USC researchers showed videos of hands, feet and a mouth doing "tasks" to a woman who was born without arms or legs, as well as 13 typically developed women. The participants were also shown videos of injections being given on certain parts of the body.

As they watched the videos, the women's brains were scanned. Researchers compared those scans to pinpoint sources of empathy.

Researchers from the University of Southern California found people automatically attempt to empathize -- even with those who are physically very different. To do that, however, people must use two separate regions of their brain.

In a paper, published online by Cerebral Cortex, USC researchers found that empathy between two people who can relate to each other more directly relies primarily on the intuitive, sensory-motor parts of the brain. A person who empathizes with someone who is very different or with whom they cannot directly relate, however, depends more on the rationalizing part of the brain.

In conducting the study, USC researchers showed videos of hands, feet and a mouth doing "tasks" to a woman who was born without arms or legs, as well as 13 typically developed women. The participants were also shown videos of injections being given on certain parts of the body.

As they watched the videos, the women's brains were scanned. Researchers compared those scans to pinpoint sources of empathy.

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