Abigail Marsh is a
professor at Georgetown University. Her area of
expertise includes social and affective neuroscience, particularly
understanding emotions such as empathy and how they relate to aggression,
altruism, violence and psychopathy. Her
research is aimed at understanding aspects of human social interactions,
emotional functioning, and empathy using cognitive neuroscience methods,
with a particular focus on emotion and nonverbal communication.
Her research also includes studies with adolescents
and adults that incorporate neuroimaging, cognitive and behavioral testing, and
pharmacology techniques. Abigail also teaches a course titled
Altruism, & Aggression. The course addresses such
questions as; Are humans innately selfish or empathic? What do we mean
when we say empathy? Do selfish or empathic behaviors succeed best in the
long term? What is a psychopath?
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selfish or empathic behaviors succeed best in the long term?
What is a psychopath? "
this seminar, we will explore these questions and others related to
cognitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects of empathy in interpersonal
interactions. We will begin with an exploration of the multiple ways
that empathy can be defined and conceptualized, with a focus on the
differences among empathy, empathic accuracy, and perspective-taking..."
"BACKGROUND: Psychopathic traits are associated with increases in antisocial
behaviors such as aggression and are characterized by reduced empathy
for others' distress. This suggests that psychopathic traits may also
impair empathic pain sensitivity. However, whether psychopathic traits
affect responses to the pain of others versus the self has not been
previously assessed... . RESULTS: Youths with psychopathic traits showed reduced activity within regions
associated with empathic pain as the depicted pain increased. These
regions included rostral anterior cingulate cortex, ventral striatum (putamen),
and amygdala. Reductions in amygdala activity particularly occurred when
the injury was perceived as occurring to another. Empathic pain
responses within both amygdala and rostral anterior cingulate cortex
were negatively correlated with the severity of psychopathic traits as
indexed by PCL:YV scores.
CONCLUSIONS: Youths with psychopathic traits show less responsiveness in regions
implicated in the affective response to another's pain as the perceived
intensity of this pain increases. Moreover, this reduced responsiveness
appears to predict symptom severity."
- Empathy: What’s in it to Feel Others’ Pain? "Abigail Marsh holds a PhD from Harvard University and conducted her
post-doctoral research on emotion in teens and adults at the National
Institute of Mental Health. Now a professor at Georgetown University,
she uses neuroimaging, pharmacological, genetic, and neurocognitive
techniques to research emotions such as empathy in healthy adults and
adolescents, and psychopathy, or what researchers term callous
unemotional (CU) traits associated with maladaptive emotional responses
in adolescents with behavioral problems.
Q: What is empathy and how does it relate to your research on
callous-unemotional traits? My research has shown that the most important part of feeling empathy is
first recognizing what someone else is feeling. We know through years of
studies and observation that early nurturing helps promote emotional
JUNE 20, 2013 – Brain Regions for Empathy Less Active in Youths with
Psychopathic Traits - Georgetown University
"YOUNG PEOPLE WITH CONDUCT problems and psychopathic traits such as
callousness and remorselessness show less activity in the regions of the
brain associated with empathy, according to a new study led by a
Georgetown psychology professor. Abigail Marsh, working with colleagues
from the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Disease Control
and Prevention and three other academics, recently published her
research in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry."
"But what about criminals whose disorders can’t be treated, like
psychopaths? As many as half of all violent offenders may be
psychopaths, meaning they show little empathy or remorse and are likely
to reoffend. Normally a diagnosis of psychopathy is an aggravating
factor that results in a longer sentence. But emphasizing the biological
basis of the disorder can reduce even psychopaths’ sentences.""