Everybody has heard the saying ‘keep your friends close but your enemies closer’ but until now it was unknown how deeply this saying may be ingrained in to the inner workings of our brains.
A study published in last month’s edition of Frontiers in Psychology examines the pain matrix of the brain, a network thought to be a related to empathy. The study used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to view the activity of the pain matrix. Surprisingly it was found that activity was greater in the pain matrices when participants were watching a character they disliked to one they liked.
This suggests that the human brain focuses more intensely on monitoring the pain of our enemies, which raises questions as to whether the pain matrices is as closely related to empathy as previously thought or whether it is more generally related to processing pain. It also leads to an interesting new understanding of the way in which our brains monitor those we dislike.
It is likely that in wake of these findings additional studies will be conducted. They are likely to firstly extend the range of participants as these current results from the University Of South Carolina (USC) only looked at male Jews and their response to anti-Semitic and tolerant people. Even if it still has further to go this research has certainly opened the door onto several unanswered questions about the true role of the pain matrix and it will be interesting to see what future studies will uncover.