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Figure 1 | BioPsychoSocial Medicine

Figure 1

From: The empathic brain and its dysfunction in psychiatric populations: implications for intervention across different clinical conditions

Figure 1

Schematic representation of the bottom-up (i.e., direct matching between perception and action), and top-down (i.e., regulation and control) information processes involved in empathy. These two levels of processing are interrelated. The lower level, which is automatically activated (unless inhibited) by perceptual input, accounts for emotion sharing which leads to the implicit recognition that others are like us. Executive functions, implemented in the prefrontal cortex, serve to regulate both cognition and emotion, notably through selective attention and self-regulation. This meta-level is continuously updated by bottom-up information, and in return controls the lower level by providing top-down input. Thus, top-down regulation, through executive functions, modulates low levels and adds flexibility, making the individual less dependent on external cues. The meta-cognitive feedback plays a crucial role in taking into account one's own mental competence in order to react (or not) to the affective states of others. However, subcortical systems do not lose their basic function, they may give up some of their autonomy in terms of the degree to which higher cortical systems can modulate their functions or regulate the emotional experience (adapted from [168–170]).

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