Another’s Pain in my Brain: Clarifying the Specificity of the Effects of Placebo Analgesia on First-Hand and Empathy for Pain (OSF preregistration)

The shared representations account of empathy suggests that sharing other people’s emotions relies on neural processes similar to those engaged when experiencing such emotions oneself. Recent research corroborated this account by showing that experimentally reducing first-hand pain by means of placebo analgesia also resulted in reduced empathy for pain, and decreased activation in the shared neural networks, namely the affective-motivational component of the pain matrix. However, the role of the more basic sensory-discriminative component in the context of empathy is still not clear. The present project therefore aims to explore the role of the somatosensory part of pain processing during empathy for another’s pain and its modulation by placebo analgesia by means of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and a tailored experimental paradigm.