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Affective and cognitive brain-networks are differently integrated in women and men while experiencing compassion

  • Rodriguez-Nieto, Geraldine; 136350;
  • Mercadillo, Roberto E;
  • Pasaye, Erick H;
  • Barrios, Fernando A;
Publication Date
Sep 13, 2022
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Different theoretical models have proposed cognitive and affective components in empathy and moral judgments encompassing compassion. Furthermore, gender differences in psychological and neural functions involving empathic and moral processing, as well as compassionate experiences, have been reported. However, the neurobiological function regarding affective and cognitive integration underlying compassion and gender-associated differences has not been investigated. In this study, we aimed to examine the interaction between cognitive and emotional components through functional connectivity analyzes and to explore gender differences for the recruitment and interaction of these components. Thirty-six healthy participants (21-56 years; 21 women) were exposed to social images in an fMRI session to judge whether the stimuli elicited compassion. The results showed a different connectivity pattern for women and men of the insular cortex, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and the cingulate cortex. The integration of affective and cognitive components follows a complex functional connectivity pattern that is different for both genders. These differences may indicate that men largely make compassionate judgments based on contextual information, while women tend to notably take internal and introspective processes into account. Women and men can use different affective and cognitive routes that could converge in similar learning of moral values, empathic experiences and compassionate acts. / status: published

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