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Identifying the roles of theta and beta during empathy: an EEG power spectra and laterality index study

Lockhart, Thomas (2017) Identifying the roles of theta and beta during empathy: an EEG power spectra and laterality index study. University of Portsmouth. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Previous research into empathy has focused on behavioural or fMRI based methodologies, with very few electroencephalographic (EEG) studies on the topic. In particular there is a need to clarify, firstly, the differences in EEG activity between emotional and cognitive empathic tasks. Secondly, whether theta power is more closely linked to cognitive demand or the degree of stimulus valence experienced during empathy. Lastly, there is a need to examine whether beta is more linked to empathy specific processing, emotional valence processing or willingness to engage with the task. To examine these issues the current study recorded the EEG activity of university students whilst they completed six tasks which differed based on whether emotional or cognitive processing was required, how much cognitive demand the task required and whether the task required empathy or not. The results showed that theta, beta and alpha activity were higher in non-empathy tasks than in empathy tasks. Also, that theta activity was asynchronous during the non-empathic emotional task. This lead to the conclusions that theta is more likely linked to stimulus valence in empathy tasks and that beta is more likely linked to emotional valence processing or willingness to engage in a task than it is with empathy specific processing

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