Mouse empathy may reveal human compassion


Bartal expects to see this activity in rescue rats because Human empathy emerges In these areas.But to her surprise, even those no The companion in the cage who rescued them showed signs of nerves. “The mouse actually deals with the fact that there is a mouse in distress – he is trapped and he is not happy,” she said. “Whether they provide help or not, they will activate this empathy system.”

If the same machine catches fire under all circumstances, but behavior What is the difference between pairs inside and outside the group? The differences appear to exist elsewhere, including the nucleus accumbens, which is responsible for processing carrot stick-type neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and GABA. “When you eat something delicious, or when you win money, or have sex, it becomes active,” Bartal said.

She added that it is often referred to as the reward center of the brain, “but today, people are increasingly understanding that it is not as simple as pictures.” The new view of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens connects it with expected rewards and inspiring its pursuits. . “The main function of the brain is to get you close to things that are good for your survival and to avoid things that are harmful to your survival,” Batar said.

She repeated her experiment, using a method called fiber photometry to focus on this area, which allowed her team to monitor nerve tremors in living mice. They injected genetic material into the accumbens of the animal, and whenever the synapse spiked, the neuron would fluoresce. Then they implanted fiber optic cables and watched the bursts of light while watching the mice scurrying around. In fact, the mice that released their roommates showed the most activity in the nucleus accumbens. When they approached opening the door with their noses, the signal of this activity peaked. This tells Bartal that the most important moment for free-roaming mice is to release the restraints, not to play with their friends.

Batar finally tapped the rat’s nucleus accumbens with a dye to trace the source of the electrical signal. She wanted to find where the motivation to help first appeared. (If one Hungry mouse looking for pizza In the New York subway, their taste cortex flips the nucleus accumbens. ) By removing the brain slice from the animal shortly after performing the rescue mission and observing that the dye reaches the area that overlaps the c-Fos-expressing pocket, she can determine which parts of the brain have been talking to each other.

During the rodent rescue mission, Bartal traced the call to the incentive center and found a caller she knew: the anterior cingulate cortex. She suspects this points to a line of communication between empathy and reward, which may be important for understanding compassionate behavior. But it is too early to “completely outline the entire microcircuit involved”, she said. “This is what we are doing now.”

“This is an amazing study,” Stanford University neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky wrote in an email to WIRED.Sapolsky, who was not involved in this research, wrote this book Behavior: our best and worst human biology, It describes the factors that inspire human behavior-the ubiquitous classification of “us” and “them.”

According to Sapolsky, the team’s results tell us a lot about ourselves, because experts predict the same results in the human brain: the difference between us/theirs, the anterior cingulate gyrus to make demands, and the motivation of the accumbens. He believes that conducting such detailed brain experiments on humans is untenable, and proving that it works in mice provides a bittersweet message. Sapolsky wrote that the good news is that “the root of our ability to provide help and compassion is not our Sunday morning sermons. It is older than our humans, older than our primates; its legacy is as early as Before us as a species.” The bad news is that our prejudice against people around us has a long history.


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