In a recent small fMRI experiment, Mary Helen Immordino –Yang and colleagues at the Brain and Creativity Institute studied strong feelings of compassion for both social pain in others, and physical pain in others. Both feelings involved an expected change in activity in the anterior insula, anterior cingulate, hypothalamus, and midbrain, but they also found a previously described pattern of cortical activity on the posterior medial surface of each brain hemisphere, a region involved in the default mode of brain function, and implicated in self–related processes. Compassion for social pain in others was associated with strong activation in the interoceptive, inferior/posterior portion of this region, while compassion for physical pain in others involved heightened activity in the exteroceptive, superior/anterior portion. (Compassion for social pain also activated this superior/anterior section, but to a lesser extent.)
Activity in the anterior insula related to compassion for social pain peaked later and endured longer than that associated with compassion for physical pain.
A recent international survey suggests that compassion toward animals is correlated with compassion toward human beings. Earlier studies also established the links between interpersonal violence and animal cruelty.
Source: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia