Affective mirror and anti-mirror neurons relate to prosocial help in rats

Wen Yi Wu, Yawei Cheng, Keng Chen Liang, Ray X. Lee*, Chen Tung Yen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although empathic emotion is closely related to prosocial behavior, neuronal substrate that accounts for empathy-associated prosocial action remains poorly understood. We recorded neurons in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and insular cortex (InC) in rats when they observed another rat in pain. We discovered neurons with anti-mirror properties in the ACC and InC, in addition to those with mirror properties. ACC neurons show higher coupling between activation of self-in-pain and others-in-pain, whereas the InC has a higher ratio of neurons with anti-mirror properties. During others-in-pain, ACC neurons activated more when actively nose-poking toward others and InC neurons activated more when freezing. To further illustrate prosocial function, we examined neuronal activities in the helping behavior test. Both ACC and InC neurons showed specific activation to rat rescuing which is contributed by mirror, but not anti-mirror neurons. Our work indicates the functional involvement of mirror neuron system in prosocial behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105865
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Jan 2023


  • Behavioral neuroscience
  • Cellular neuroscience
  • Molecular neuroscience


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