Marco E. Contreras, Ph.D.

Title
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department
Department of Psychology
Institution
University of Arizona
Address
Psychology Building, 312
1503 E University Blvd
City, State, Zip
Tucson, AZ 85721-0068
Phone
(520) 626-9632
Website
http://128.196.98.170/lab.html
Research Field
Neuroscience
Award Year
2013
Country Of Origin
Chile
Mentor Name
Jean-Marc Fellous, Ph.D.

Research

In social contexts, empathy is a response enabling the understanding of others' emotional states. Empathy can lead to pro-social behaviors, voluntary actions with the intent to benefit someone else. Brain-imaging studies have shown an increase of activity in a region called the anterior insular cortex when subjects experience empathic feelings. In Dr. Fellous' lab, I am investigating the role of that brain area, and its link to the neuromodulator dopamine, in the expression of empathy. In the first comprehensive analysis to determine a neural basis for empathy, we are examining the effects of dopamine on the insular cortex and its impact on empathetic behavior. Using inactivation studies, electrophysiological recordings of neuronal signaling patterns, and pharmacology, we aim to discern the importance of the insular cortex to empathy and pro-social behavior. This work could lead to potential therapies to treat syndromes such as narcissistic personality disorder, in which empathy is deficient.