Empathy is the ability to recognize and share in the emotions of others. It can be considered a multifaceted concept with cognitive and emotional aspects. Little is known regarding the underlying neurochemistry of empathy and in the current study we used a neurogenetic approach to explore possible brain neurotransmitter pathways contributing to cognitive and emotional empathy. Both the oxytocin receptor (. OXTR) and the arginine vasopressin receptor 1a (. AVPR1a) genes contribute to social cognition in both animals and humans and hence are prominent candidates for contributing to empathy. The following research examined the associations between polymorphisms in these two genes and individual differences in emotional and cognitive empathy in a sample of 367 young adults. Intriguingly, we found that emotional empathy was associated solely with OXTR, whereas cognitive empathy was associated solely with AVPR1a. Moreover, no interaction was observed between the two genes and measures of empathy. The current findings contribute to our understanding of the distinct neurogenetic pathways involved in cognitive and emotional empathy and underscore the pervasive role of both oxytocin and vasopressin in modulating human emotions.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Financial support (RPE) from the National University of Singapore , NUS grant: R-122000125133 . John Templeton Foundation :ID# 21240. Ministry of Education at Singapore , the AXA Research Foundation and the Templeton Foundation are gratefully acknowledged. FU was funded by the Arianne de Rothschild Fellowship. Sponsors had no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of the data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the article for publication.
© 2014 Elsevier Inc.
- Arginine vasopressin receptor
- Cognitive empathy
- Emotional empathy
- Oxytocin receptor