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Neural Mechanisms for Controlling Own Emotion and Understanding Other’s Emotion
(Negative Emotions Research Domain)

Project Leader
Shintaro Funahashi, Ph.D., Professor, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University

Collaborative Research Affiliates
Kazuo Fujita, Ph.D., Professor, Kyoto University
Hidenao Fukuyama, MD, Ph.D., Professor, Kyoto University

Collaborative Project Researchers
Mika Takebayashi, M.Sc., Doctoral Student, Kyoto University

Collaborator from the Kokoro Research Center
Sakiko Yoshikawa, Ph.D., Professor, Kyoto University

Among a variety of brain functions, emotion links most closely to the human’s kokoro (mind and consciousness). We think that we could understand functions of “kokoro” by examining functions of emotion. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) is known to be one of the brain areas which participate in controlling and understanding emotion. The VMPFC receives emotional input from the amygdale and the anterior cingulate cortex and has a close functional relationship to the lateral prefrontal cortex, which participates in many higher cognitive functions. Therefore, the VMPFC is thought to be the most important brain area for considering human’s kokoro. Damages in the VMPFC cause poor emotional expression, sudden emotional change, a lack of control of own emotion, a lack of empathy and sympathy, or a lack of sociality and moral values. This area is known to be involved in the control of own emotional expression and the insight of other’s emotion. A mirror system, which has been known as a system for generating and controlling own behavior as well as understanding the purpose and meaning of the behavior of others, has been discovered in the movement-related region of the brain. If the brain area which participates in the expression and control of own emotion is functioning as a mirror system for emotion, the neural base of empathy and sympathy could explain using a mirror system for emotion. We thus aim to elucidate the neural mechanism for expressing and controlling one’s own emotions in the VMPFC and examine whether or not the same mechanism also participates in the understanding of other’s emotion.