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sciencedaily 2017-6-29
陈明 译

Chatter in the deep brain spurs empathy in rats
Communication within the brain is key to empathetic decision-making
Duke researchers tracked how signals ping back and forth within the brain during empathic decision-making in rats. (Stock image)

It's a classic conundrum: while rushing to get to an important meeting or appointment on time, you spot a stranger in distress. How do you decide whether to stop and help, or continue on your way?


A new study by neuroscientists at Duke and Stanford University sheds light on how the brain coordinates these complex decisions involving altruism and empathy. The answer lies in the way multiple areas of the brain collaborate to produce the decision, rather than just one area or another making the call.

杜克大学和斯坦福大学神经科学家的一项新研究揭示了大脑如何协调这些复杂的决定,包括利他主义和共情。答案位于大脑的多个区域,它们协同做出了决定,而不仅仅是一个区域或另一个区域发出 了命令。

"The brain is more than just the sum of its individual parts," said Jana Schaich Borg, assistant research professor in the Social Science Research Institute and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke.

“大脑不仅仅是各个部分的总和,”在社会科学研究所和杜克大学认知神经科学中心的助理研究员Jana Schaich Borg说。

Using a technique that combines electrical monitoring of brain activity with machine learning, the team was able to tune into the brain chatter of rats engaged in helping other rats.


They found that regions deep within the brain -- those primarily responsible for emotions and basic bodily functions -- are core to empathic decision-making. The specific role of each brain area is not fixed, but can change depending on which other areas it is communicating with, and what specific messages it is receiving, according to Schaich Borg.

他们在大脑深处发现的区域——那些主要负责情绪和基本身体功能的区域——是共情决策的核心。各个脑区的特定的角色不是固定的,而且,可以根据其他区域与其的沟通、以及其收到的特殊的讯息而发生变化,Schaich Borg说。

"We know that there are many brain regions that seem to do multiple things, sometimes at the same time, but we don't know how the brain pulls that off," Schaich Borg said.

“我们知道,许多脑区似乎做着多重的事情,有时在同一时间,但我们不知道大脑是如何停下来的,”Schaich Borg说。

"One idea is that the function a brain region plays at a specific time could be determined by what it is connected to at that time, what other brain regions are doing at that time, and how brain regions are talking to each other at that time," Schaich Borg said. "Some people have called this hypothetical phenomenon 'neural context,' and we've found concrete evidence for that."

“一个想法是,脑区在特定时间发挥的功能可能决定于,当时所关联的内容,以及其他脑区在同时时候正在做的内容,以及不同的脑区当时是如何交谈的,“Schaich Borg说 ,”有些人把这种假设现象称为“神经语境”,我们已经找到了具体的证据。

The results clarify earlier conflicting findings on the role of specific brain regions, such as the insula, in guiding antisocial and psychopathic behavior, and may shed light on how to encourage altruistic behavior in humans.


The study appears in the June issue of Brain and Behavior.


Schaich Borg began this research as a graduate student at Stanford, where she was driven to understand the neurological basis of empathy in hopes of finding better treatments for conditions like psychopathy, in which people seem unable to experience empathy at all.

当Schaich Borg还是斯坦福大学的研究生时便开始了这项研究,在那里,她投身于对共情的神经病学偏见的理解,以希望找到诸如精神病的更好的治疗方法,在那些疾病中 人们似乎根本无法体验到共情。

"I wanted to understand what makes someone help someone else, or what makes someone refrain from hurting another person even when they don't like them," Schaich Borg said. Ethical and practical considerations can make it tricky to study the neural mechanisms of this type of decision-making in human subjects. So working with then-advisor Luis de Lecea, she devised an experiment to elicit empathetic decision-making in rats.

“我想知道是什么让一些人帮助另一些人,以及是什么使得一些人避免伤害另一些人,即使他们不喜欢他们,”Schaich Borg说。出于伦理和实践的考虑,限制了 以人类被试进行这项神经决策机制的研究。因此,她和她的顾问Luis de Lecea合作设计了一个引起老鼠共情决策的实验。

Rats generally dislike bright lights, preferring to stay in places that are dark or dimly lit, Schaich Borg said. But she found that when given a choice, most rats would enter a brightly-lit chamber if it could prevent another rat from receiving an electrical shock.

Schaich Borg说,老鼠一般不喜欢明亮的灯光,宁愿呆在这黑暗或昏暗的地方,但她发现,如果有选择,在可以防止另一只老鼠触电的情况下,大多数老鼠会进入一个明亮的房间。

A series of molecular tests pinpointed which regions of the brain were active while the rats made these decisions. "The brain regions that encoded what the rat was choosing to do were the same ones we found in other studies to be involved in human empathy and moral decision making," Schaich Borg said. "It's fascinating that rats are using the same brain regions that we seem to be using, and it suggests that rats provide a promising avenue for better understanding the way the human brain makes decisions to help others."

当老鼠做出这些决定时,一系列的分子测试准确的对大脑的那些脑区处于活动状态进行了定位。“老鼠作出选择时的大脑编码区域,与我们在另一项研究中所发现的涉及人类共情与道德决策的区域是相同的。”Schaich Borg说。”令人着迷的是,老鼠正在使用的区域与我们似乎正在使用的脑区是同一个区域,它表明,老鼠为人们提供了一条康庄大道,可以更好地理解人类帮助他人做出决定的方法 。

But the results were also confusing in some ways. Specific areas of the brain, such as the amygdala or the insula, appeared to be increasingly active the more rats chose to help, but these same brain regions were also known to be involved in many other behaviors that had nothing to do with social behavior.


To get a deeper view of how the rats' brains coordinated empathic decision-making, Schaich Borg became a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Kafui Dzirasa, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke. Dzirasa had developed a way of simultaneously tuning into electrical signals from multiple points of the brains of awake, behaving rodents. Careful analysis of these signals can reveal not only which parts of the brain are activated, but also how different areas of the brain talk to each other.

为了深入了解老鼠大脑如何协调共情决策,Schaich Borg成为了Kafui Dzirasa实验室的博士后和杜克大学精神病学和行为科学助理教授。Dzirasa已经开发出一种方法,同时接受来自于啮齿类动物清醒大脑的多 个点位的电子信号。仔细分析这些信号不仅可以揭示大脑的哪一部分被激活,还能揭示大脑不同区域之间的相互交流方式。

Schaich Borg applied this technique to her rats, recording the activity within 10 specific brain regions while also searching for signs of oscillatory "coherence" or communication between each of the regions as the rats were making decisions about how to respond to other rats getting shocked. Collaborating with statisticians, she then used machine learning techniques to correlate the vast array of brain data with the rats' behaviors.

当老鼠决定要如何对受到电击的老鼠作出反应时,schaich Borg对她的老鼠运用了这项技术,记录了10个特定脑区的活动,同时也寻找信号振荡的“一致性”,或每个区域之间 的沟通。然后,她与统计学家合作,利用机器学习技术将大量的大脑数据与老鼠的行为联系起来。

"We found that you cannot describe the behavior as well with single brain regions as you can by looking at coherence, or connections between different brain regions," Schaich Borg said.

Schaich Borg说:“当你通过观察不同脑区的一致性或他们之间的联系时,您无法通过单一脑区描述行为”。

The results help explain conflicting roles the insula has been found to play in human psychopathy and addiction. "Perhaps the insula facilitates certain social behaviors when it is talking a group of brain regions in one way, but inhibits those same behaviors when it is talking to the same brain regions in a different way," Schaich Borg said.

研究结果有助于解释脑岛在发现人类精神病和成瘾中发挥的矛盾作用。Schaich Borg说:“一方面,当脑岛正在与一群大脑区域交谈的时候,他促进了某些社会行为,但 是,当它以不同的方式与相同脑区交谈时,又抑制了这些行为。”

"Our results confirm that if you just look at one brain region at a time, you likely will not be getting the full story of how the mind works," she said. "To understand how the brain coordinates complex behaviors -- especially social behaviors -- we likely have to look at the changing inputs and outputs of individual regions in different situations."

她说:“我们的结果证实,如果你一次只看一个大脑区域,你就不会得到大脑如何运作的完整故事。”为了理解大脑如何协调复杂的行为——特别是社会行为——我们可能必须研究不 同情况下单个区域输入和输出的变化。

Story Source:Materials provided by Duke University. Original written by Kara Manke. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.



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