Does empathic brain response to pain depend on physical attractiveness and sex of the suffering person?

[Speaker] Jankowiak-siuda, Kamila:1
[Co-author] Rymarczyk, Krystyna:1,2, Zurawski, Lukasz:2, Jednorog, Katarzyna:2, Marchewka, Artur:3
1:SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities (Poland), 2:Laboratory of Psychophysiology, Department of Neurophysiology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Warsaw (Poland), 3:Laboratory of Brain Imaging, Neurobiology Centre, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology (Poland)

Physical attractiveness is a major social and evolutional cue, playing a role in the formation of interpersonal evaluation. The aim of the study was to determine how attractiveness affects the level of empathy in terms of activation of specific empathy-related brain regions. Twenty seven subjects were studied using fMRI method while they were watching short video scenes involving physically more and less attractive men and women who exhibited pain responses. The results have revealed an interaction effect of sex and attractiveness of the models. The ROI analysis has shown stronger activation in anterior cingulate (ACC) and anterior insula (AI) for less attractive men then for attractive women, and for attractive women then for attractive men. This study showed, for the first time, that the attractiveness and sex of a model constitute an important modulator of pain empathy.
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