Viewing facial expressions of pain engages cortical areas involved in the direct experience of pain

Matthew Botvinick, Amishi P. Jha, Lauren M. Bylsma, Sara A. Fabian, Patricia E. Solomon, Kenneth M. Prkachin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

413 Scopus citations


Recent neuroimaging and neuropsychological work has begun to shed light on how the brain responds to the viewing of facial expressions of emotion. However, one important category of facial expression that has not been studied on this level is the facial expression of pain. We investigated the neural response to pain expressions by performing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as subjects viewed short video sequences showing faces expressing either moderate pain or, for comparison, no pain. In alternate blocks, the same subjects received both painful and non-painful thermal stimulation. Facial expressions of pain were found to engage cortical areas also engaged by the first-hand experience of pain, including anterior cingulate cortex and insula. The reported findings corroborate other work in which the neural response to witnessed pain has been examined from other perspectives. In addition, they lend support to the idea that common neural substrates are involved in representing one's own and others' affective states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-319
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Cingulate
  • Facial expression
  • fMRI
  • Human
  • Insula
  • Pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Viewing facial expressions of pain engages cortical areas involved in the direct experience of pain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this