BACKGROUND: Neuroimaging studies continue to indicate the major role the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) plays in processing empathic responses. Error-related negativity (ERN), an event-related potential (ERP) thought to arise from the ACC, has been found to correlate with scores for individual empathic personality. This study investigated the relationship between empathic personality traits and the amplitude of feedback-related negativity (FRN), an ERP sourced from the ACC and similar to the ERN, using a task involving feedback of monetary gains or losses.
METHODS: Sixteen healthy participants answered an empathy trait questionnaire and performed a gambling task to elicit FRN. Because FRN amplitude is thought to be associated with attention, motivation, emotional state, and anxiety trait, we performed a partial correlation analysis between the empathic trait score and FRN amplitude while controlling for variables.
RESULTS: In partial correlation analysis, FRN amplitude was significantly inversely correlated with scores for personal distress and marginally correlated with scores for empathic concern and with total average score.
DISCUSSION: The study revealed for the first time an association between FRN and emotional empathic traits, after controlling for variables that can affect FRN amplitude. However, we also found a reversed directional correlation contrary to our expectations. This fronto-central brain activity may be associated with empathic properties via dopaminergic neuronal function. Future study using these electric potentials as experimental tools is expected to help elucidate the neurological mechanism of empathy.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes