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Protect Others to Protect Myself: A Weakness of Western Countries in the Face of Current and Future Pandemics? Psychological and Neuroscientific Perspectives

  • Mermillod, Martial1
  • Morisseau, Tiffany2, 3, 4
  • 1 LPNC, Univ. Grenoble Alpes, Univ. Savoie Mont Blanc, CNRS, Grenoble , (France)
  • 2 Université de Paris, Laboratoire de Psychologie et d’Ergonomie Appliquées, Boulogne-Billancourt , (France)
  • 3 Laboratoire de Psychologie et d’Ergonomie Appliquées, Univ. Gustave Eiffel, Versailles , (France)
  • 4 Strane Innovation, Gif-sur-Yvette , (France)
Published Article
Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Apr 22, 2021
DOI: 10.3389/fnint.2021.608151
  • Neuroscience
  • Perspective


The COVID-19 pandemic has generated a large number of publications in the medical and biological fields concerning the virus and its treatments, as well as in psychology, social sciences, and data sciences with regard to the spread of the virus. Surprisingly, far fewer neuroscientific articles have been published in this field of research and one might well ask whether the cognitive neurosciences have anything to say at all about this vital topic. In this article, we highlight a research perspective relating to differences in the individual perception of the pandemic in Western compared to Eastern countries. Although this problem is complex, multifaceted and subsumes many other social variables, we suggest that the cognitive neurosciences do have important and fundamental insights to contribute concerning the collective response observed within these populations. More precisely, we propose the hypothesis that differences in the propensity to adopt a holistic perception of contamination processes at the group level, involving brain structures that are also associated with perspective-taking and empathy such as, in particular, the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), could help explain the differences in the perception of the pandemic observed between Western and Eastern countries.

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