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The neural basis of empathetic systems

開催日 2014/9/13
時間 17:10 - 19:10
会場 Room B(501)
Chairperson(s) 菊水 健史 / Takefumi Kikusui (麻布大学獣医学部 / School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, Japan)

Can we predict burnout among medical professionals from empathy-related brain activity?

  • S3-B-3-3
  • 高橋 英彦 / Hidehiko Takahashi:1 
  • 1:京都大学 / Department of Psychiatry Kyoto University Hospital, Japan 

Empathy cultivates deeper interpersonal relationships and is important for socialization. Fairness also plays an important role in promoting pro-social behaviors. However, these are not always related to sunny side of human behaviors. For instance, counter-empathy also known as shadenfreude motivated destructive behaviors, and responses to unfairness could take a form of aggressive behaviors. In this symposium, I will introduce our recent fMRI study on empathy-related burnout among medical professionals.Frequent exposure to emotionally-demanding situations may put people at risk for burnout. Burnout has become a pervasive problem among medical professionals because occupational burnout may be highly sensitive to empathy levels. We studied the relationship between burnout severity scores and psychological measures of empathic disposition, emotional dissonance, alexithymia, and cognitive flexibility (Machiavellianism) in medical professionals to test two contradictory hypotheses: Burnout is explained by (1) compassion fatigue; individuals become emotionally over-involved; and (2) emotional dissonance; a gap between felt and expressed emotion.The results showed that burnout severity of medical professionals is explained by reduced empathy-related brain activity. Moreover, this reduced brain activity is correlated with stronger emotional dissonance and alexithymia scores and lower cognitive flexibility. The findings suggested that reduced emotion recognition (i.e., alexithymia) and cognitive flexibility might potentially contribute to burnout among medical professionals. Our studies suggest the importance of cognitive flexibility in preventing empathy/fairness-related maladaptive behaviors.

1.Honesty mediates the relationship between serotonin and reaction to unfairness.
Takahashi H, Takano H, Camerer CF, Ideno T, Okubo S, Matsui H, Tamari Y, Takemura K, Arakawa R, Kodaka F, Yamada M, Eguchi Y, Murai T, Okubo Y, Kato M, Ito H, Suhara T. PNAS 2012 109:4281-4

2.Can we predict burnout severity from empathy-related brain activity?
Tei S, Becker C, Kawada R, Fujino J, Jankowski K, Sugihara G, Murai T, Takahashi H. Transl Psychiatry in press

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