ABC Seminar - It takes two to empathize: Inter-brain coupling during empathic interactions

This time, Simone Shamay-Tsoory (University of Haifa) will discuss her findings on inter-brain coupling during empathic interactions, exploring potential changes over time over the course of multiple interactions.
ABC Seminar - Simone

Welcome to our ABC Seminars! This seminar series is open for everyone. The talk will take place in Otakaari 3, F239a Auditorio. After the talks, coffee and pulla will be served.

The event will be also streamed via Zoom at:

Title: It takes two to empathize: Inter-brain coupling during empathic interactions

Abstract: Although empathy occurs in social interactions, research on empathy have largely focused on covert mechanisms of empathy in the observer (empathizer), without exploring how empathic reactions affect the distress of the target.

In a set of experiments, we examined a feedback loop model that describes the participation of empathy-related brain regions in the interpersonal emotion regulation cycle. A central role in the empathy feedback loop is played by inter-brain coupling between regions in the observation-execution system (including the inferior frontal gyrus and inferior parietal lobe) of interacting participants.

Given that empathic interactions develop over time, the question remains whether inter-brain coupling can increase over the course of one or multiple interactions. We recently suggested that inter-brain plasticity, the ability of interacting brains to modify the coupling between brains in reaction to repeated interactions underlies learning in social interactions (Shamay-Tsoory, 2021). We examined this approach in a study on psychotherapy and demonstrate gradual increase in inter-brain coupling between the client and psychotherapist over three therapeutic sessions. These findings indicate that as the therapist adapts her response to the client, the inter-brain networks between them reconfigure. This framework may explain how empathic responses may improve over time and how we learn to mutually adapt our responses during social interactions.

Aalto Brain Centre
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