Event Title

The Effect of Shared Emotional States on Helping Behavior in Rats and its Basis in Empathy

Session Number

Q37

Advisor(s)

Peggy Mason, University of Chicago

Location

B-133

Start Date

28-4-2016 9:15 AM

End Date

28-4-2016 9:40 AM

Disciplines

Neuroscience and Neurobiology

Abstract

Empathy is a complex psychological phenomenon that can motivate the occurrence of behaviors that benefit others in distress; we call this helping. In humans, the relationship between empathy and helping is modified by the emotional state of the potential helper. To test if the same holds true in rats, midazolam, an anxiety-reducing drug, was administered to a rat that could help his trapped cagemate by releasing him from a restrainer. Control rats received either saline or no injection. The two rats from the same cage were placed into an arena, with one rat in a restrainer in the center and the other rat free to move around within the arena. One-hour testing sessions were repeated for 12 days. We found that rats injected with midazolam did not help their cagemate although saline-injected and uninjected rats did. These data suggest that the ability to share another's distress is required for motivating helping, even in rodents. Movement analysis across the conditions will be presented. By studying helping and its basis in empathy in rats, we can develop a better understanding of biological contributions to empathy in people, and thereby improve relationships between people.


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Apr 28th, 9:15 AM Apr 28th, 9:40 AM

The Effect of Shared Emotional States on Helping Behavior in Rats and its Basis in Empathy

B-133

Empathy is a complex psychological phenomenon that can motivate the occurrence of behaviors that benefit others in distress; we call this helping. In humans, the relationship between empathy and helping is modified by the emotional state of the potential helper. To test if the same holds true in rats, midazolam, an anxiety-reducing drug, was administered to a rat that could help his trapped cagemate by releasing him from a restrainer. Control rats received either saline or no injection. The two rats from the same cage were placed into an arena, with one rat in a restrainer in the center and the other rat free to move around within the arena. One-hour testing sessions were repeated for 12 days. We found that rats injected with midazolam did not help their cagemate although saline-injected and uninjected rats did. These data suggest that the ability to share another's distress is required for motivating helping, even in rodents. Movement analysis across the conditions will be presented. By studying helping and its basis in empathy in rats, we can develop a better understanding of biological contributions to empathy in people, and thereby improve relationships between people.