Bhismadev Chakrabarti heads a research group at the Centre
for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics at the University of
Reading, UK. The group studies emotion perception, empathy, and autism
using functional MRI, eye gaze tracking, and psychophysiology. He works in
collaboration with the Autism Research Centre at the University of
Cambridge. Bhisma shared his insights into the physical nature of empathy
and how we can build a culture of empathy.
"Empathy is the lens through which we view emotions in others. The highly
empathic can sense others' emotions automatically, while those with
lower empathy are
often marked by a deficit in picking up socio-emotional cues from other
people. Empathy exists in a continuum across the population, and our
research here targets the following questions: a) how does empathy influence the perception of emotions in others and
in ourselves? b) what are the neural and behavioral processes underlying empathy?" Sub Conference:
is at the heart of human social life. It allows us to respond
appropriately to others’ emotions and mental states. A perceived lack of
empathy is also one of the symptoms that defines autism. Understanding
this is key to devising effective therapies.
While empathic behaviour takes many forms, it is worthwhile to note at
least two main sets of processes that are involved in empathising. One
of these processes is a bottom-up, automatic response to others’
emotions. The classic example of this is breaking into giggles upon
seeing another person giggle, without really knowing the reason why. The
other is a top-down response, where we need to work out what another
person must be feeling – a bit like solving a puzzle.
My research focuses on the bottom-up automatic component of empathy.