File:Harm to Others Acts as a Negative Reinforcer in Rats.pdf

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English: Empathy, the ability to share another individual’s emotional state and/or experience, has been suggested to be a source of prosocial motivation by attributing negative value to actions that harm others. The neural underpinnings and evolution of such harm aversion remain poorly understood. Here, we characterize an animal model of harm aversion in which a rat can choose between two levers providing equal amounts of food but one additionally delivering a footshock to a neighboring rat. We find that independently of sex and familiarity, rats reduce their usage of the preferred lever when it causes harm to a conspecific, displaying an individually varying degree of harm aversion. Prior experience with pain increases this effect. In additional experiments, we show that rats reduce the usage of the harm-inducing lever when it delivers twice, but not thrice, the number of pellets than the no-harm lever, setting boundaries on the magnitude of harm aversion. Finally, we show that pharmacological deactivation of the anterior cingulate cortex, a region we have shown to be essential for emotional contagion, reduces harm aversion while leaving behavioral flexibility unaffected. This model of harm aversion might help shed light onto the neural basis of psychiatric disorders characterized by reduced harm aversion, including psychopathy and conduct disorders with reduced empathy, and provides an assay for the development of pharmacological treatments of such disorders.
Source (PDF link) (doi:10.1016/j.cub.2020.01.017)

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Author Julen Hernandez-Lallement, Augustine Triumph Attah, Efe Soyman, Cindy M. Pinhal, Valeria Gazzola, Christian Keysers
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This file, which was originally posted to URL: (archived link), was reviewed on 12 April 2020 by reviewer Green Giant, who confirmed that it was available there under the stated license on that date.


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5 March 2020


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current19:14, 31 March 2020Thumbnail for version as of 19:14, 31 March 20201,254 × 1,629, 21 pages (4.07 MB)AcagastyaUploaded a work by Julen Hernandez-Lallement Augustine Triumph Attah Efe Soyman Cindy M. Pinhal Valeria Gazzola Christian Keysers from URL: [] ([ archived link]) PDF Link: [ PDF] ([

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