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Is Our Brain Hardwired To Empathize With People Close To Us?

empathyHuman beings are such magnificent creatures because of our wide range of emotions, intelligence and creativity. These features are what separate us from animals and plants. In addition, they allow us to have a level of empathy that helps us to understand what others are feeling and experiencing.

Due to new discoveries in neuroscience, neuroscientists are finding new ways to help them understand how human relationships and emotions affect how the human brain is hardwired. One of these discoveries appeared during a study done by a team of scientists from the University of Virginia. They found that the human brain is hardwired to empathize with people who it is familiar with. This discovery explains why we tend to think similar to people close to us and why we feel strong emotions toward them.

The human brain is a very complex organ, containing over 100 billion neurons, each with over 1,000 connections to other neurons. Due to its unique features, the human brain can calculate nearly 100 trillion calculations per second. When we really think about it, the human brain operates similar to a quantum computer. Unlike a quantum computer, our brain has the ability to rewire itself in relation to its environment and experience. Because of this feature, each of our brain is hardwired slightly different, giving us unique characteristics and the ability to empathize with others in our own ways.

One of the features of our brain that allows us to empathize with people close to us is its ability to filter things base on their level of importance to us. According to researchers, the human brain has the ability to filter unfamiliar and familiar things and store them separately. The things that we are more familiar with are stored in a way that allows us to have a stronger connection to them. When it comes to remembering people, the people who are close to us are stored in a personal place in our brain that behaves like a social network. This creates the feeling that we are intertwined with these people and thus they become like a part of us. This feature is one of the reasons why it is easier for us to empathize with people who have a personal connection to us.

The unique features of our brain allow us to share and experience emotions, so that we can understand our needs and the needs of others. They also give use unique identities and personalities, which in turn give us the need to look for friends who have similar features.

As we get to know our friends more and establish a bond, our brain rewires itself to create a stronger connection to them. As a result, when we see our friends get hurt, our behavioral responses are filled with stronger emotions. This may explain why studies done on brain behavior showed that the anterior insula, putamen and supramarginal gyrus became more active when we experience a threat to a friend than a threat to a stranger. 

Our brain’s ability to rewire itself to establish a stronger connection to our friends and family members is a great blessing, but it can also be a curse when our friends or family members turn on us. If we don’t learn our lesson or understand the situation, this experience of betrayal can make it harder for us to empathize with others. If we allow it to affect us too much, the neurons of our brain could rewire themselves in a way that creates protective behaviors, making it harder for us to trust others. 

To prevent our brain from creating overprotective behaviors, we need to learn how to unify the energies of our heart and brain, so that they aren’t constantly fighting each other. The human heart is a marvelous organ because it gives us the ability to understand the world through feelings. It also plays a big role in helping us to empathize with people close to us. Because of these features, our heart can help us to understand our emotions and therefore it can prevent our brain from becoming overprotective. This unification of the heart and brain holds the key to help us empathize with others beyond logic.

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References:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201308/neuroscientists-confirm-our-loved-ones-become-ourselves

http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/news/2002/11/56459

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