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Empathy for pain: behavioral, neurochemical and hormonal approaches

Grant number: 15/00006-4
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): August 01, 2015
Effective date (End): November 30, 2019
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Pharmacology
Cooperation agreement: Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES)
Principal Investigator:Azair Liane Matos Do Canto de Souza
Grantee:Daniela Baptista de Souza
Home Institution: Centro de Educação e Ciências Humanas (CECH). Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCAR). São Carlos , SP, Brazil
Associated scholarship(s):18/04775-0 - The role of central nucleus of amygdaloid complex in hyperalgesic priming, BE.EP.PD

Abstract

The ability to capture emotional signals in the other is directly related to the survival of the species, and this feature is given the name of empathy. In addition, in some types of relevant psychiatric disorders, empathy ability is impaired, such as the antisocial personality disorder (psychopathy) and autism spectrum disorders. Similarly to humans, animals exhibit behaviors related to common, specifically rodents which exhibit modulation of emotional social behaviors. Thus, it has been shown that pain-related behaviors are bidirectionally influenced by other animal behavior, so to see a conspecific with pain can increase or decrease the sensation of pain in the observer mouse. Some studies showed hormonal changes related to empathy, the levels of corticosterone, testosterone and oxytocin. In addition, it has been shown that the insular cortex is also activated in those who are watching only potentially painful. Other structure directly related to nociceptive processes and empathy is the amygdala. Besides central nervous system structures, serotonergic, noradrenergic and dopaminergic neurotransmission is widely described as participants in processes related to emotions, nociception and pathophysiology of disorders related directly with empathetic behavioral deficits. Recently, our research group has shown that living with a conspecific in chronic pain is able to increase the nociceptive responses in animals subjected to the writhing test, and lead to an increase in anxiety. Moreover, we demonstrated that inhibition of the amygdala enhances hyperalgesiain this model, whereas inhibition of the insula attenuated this response. The objectives of this study are to investigate in animals subjected to contact with conspecific with neuropathic pain: (1) the specificity of increased nociceptive response, through the use of different tests (writhing test induced by intraperitoneal injection acid solution acetic acid 0.6% formalin paw test and the hot plate test); (2) plasma levels of corticosterone, testosterone and oxytocin; (3) levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the insula and amygdala and (4) the activity of the insula and amygdala through evaluation of transcription factors CREB and ERK by western blotting technique. (AU)