Training Empathy with Dr. Jorge Moll: The Power of Conscious Feeling

Can empathy be strengthened similar to building muscle after workouts? Dr. Jorge Moll, a neuroscientist from Brazil who serves as the president of the D’Or Institute of Research and Education seems to think so.

Dr. Jorge Moll graduated from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and finished his residency in neurology from the same university. He then went on to obtain his PhD in Experimental Pathophysiology. Dr. Moll has received numerous distinctions such as obtaining the research fellow NIH award, serving as affiliate member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and governors board member of the International Neuroethics Society, and receiving the visiting scholar award at the Stanford Neuroscience Institute. Since then, he has published numerous articles on the association of moral cognition and the brain with his team at D’Or Institute for Research and Education.

Instead of setting out to isolate certain brain regions associated with empathy, Moll and his team worked on mapping multiple regions associated with such a complex emotion

( They used functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI to see what parts of the brain are active during periods of empathy.

In order to introduce strengthening, an image of a ring was shown to the patient which changed structure based on the patient’s current state of mind for one group and in the control group, the ring was independent of what the patient was thinking. It was shown that in the group where the ring mimics the state of mind of the patients, these individuals were able to strengthen empathy by altering the ring to reflect the empathy ring structure. This conscious demonstration of empathy allowed for enhancement of this emotion shown on the fMRI. Dr. Moll believes that the promising results of his study could be used to help individuals who lack empathy in the case of autism or depression by further developing this emotion.


Visit Dr. Jorge Moll’s (Facebook) account.