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Publication Detail
Using resting-state DMN effective connectivity to characterize the neurofunctional architecture of empathy.
Neuroimaging studies in social neuroscience have largely relied on functional connectivity (FC) methods to characterize the functional integration between different brain regions. However, these methods have limited utility in social-cognitive studies that aim to understand the directed information flow among brain areas that underlies complex psychological processes. In this study we combined functional and effective connectivity approaches to characterize the functional integration within the Default Mode Network (DMN) and its role in self-perceived empathy. Forty-two participants underwent a resting state fMRI scan and completed a questionnaire of dyadic empathy. Independent Component Analysis (ICA) showed that higher empathy scores were associated with an increased contribution of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) to the DMN spatial mode. Dynamic causal modelling (DCM) combined with Canonical Variance Analysis (CVA) revealed that this association was mediated indirectly by the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) via the right inferior parietal lobule (IPL). More specifically, in participants with higher scores in empathy, the PCC had a greater effect on bilateral IPL and the right IPL had a greater influence on mPFC. These results highlight the importance of using analytic approaches that address directed and hierarchical connectivity within networks, when studying complex psychological phenomena, such as empathy.
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