When somebody else tells me about his or her itching or pain in some specific body part, I sometimes begin to feel similar feelings.

I can think of about three explanations:

  1. I feel pain all over my body all the time for many different reasons but my entrance neural pathways stop it as unimportant of these signals but when I focus on a single signal, it begins to be important for me.
  2. Mirror neurons are doing their job.
  3. For an unknown reason, I psychosomatically induce my friend's feelings.

Which of these theories is at least partially engaged in said phenomenon?

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    $\begingroup$ can't say unless we do an fMRI of you :P $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Mar 1 '15 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Probably - this isn't a universal phenomenon, therefore it's unique to the person experiencing it. I would guess that it's a manifestation of suggestive hypervigilance or valetudinarianism. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Mar 1 '15 at 21:14
  • $\begingroup$ what about situation when male watch other male kicked in crotch? Is there universal reaction across male or general population to such video? $\endgroup$ – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Mar 1 '15 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ There are research articles in the area: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19857517 $\endgroup$ – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Mar 1 '15 at 22:34
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    $\begingroup$ @aandreev - there is a difference between empathy and sensation. If you see someone get kicked in the crotch, and you double over and tearfully cry out, that's not normal. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Mar 2 '15 at 0:26

There has been a study by Jackson, Meltzoff & Decety (2005) who investigated the neurocorrelates involved in the perception of pain. In order to assess this, they carried out an fMRI study in which their subjects were shown photographs of of feet and hands in situations that are likely to evoke pain and also a control set of photos that were free of any pain evoking stimuli.

enter image description here

Their results display that with the experimental photographs, there is a strong increase in bilateral changes in several regions that we know are involved in the perception of pain, namely:

the anterior cingulate, the anterior insula, the cerebellum, and to a lesser extent the thalamus

Notably, the activity of the anterior cingulate was most strongly correlated with the participants rating of the other persons pain, which suggests that the anterior cingulate is especially modulated according to the subjects reactivity to pain of others.


  • Jackson, P. L., Meltzoff, A. N., & Decety, J. (2005). How do we perceive the pain of others? A window into the neural processes involved in empathy. NeuroImage, 24, 771-779. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2004.09.006
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome back @jordizambrino (did I spell it right?) Haven't seen you answer for a while :) $\endgroup$ – another 'Homo sapien' Jun 26 '17 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ @another'Homosapien' well thank you very much! It's good to be back :) (and yes you did) $\endgroup$ – Ebbinghaus Jun 26 '17 at 18:03

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