Personal responsibility modulates neural representations of anticipatory and experienced pain

Min Pu, Rongjun Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


An individual's sense of personal responsibility is crucial for adaptive functioning in ever-changing social situations. This study investigated how the sense of personal responsibility affected the neural dynamics of anticipating one's own pain and another person's pain, using EEG. Participants played a cooperation game in which either the participant (self-context) or the confederate (other-context) received a mild electric shock whenever one of them erred. At the anticipatory stage of pain, feedback-related negativity (FRN) and P300 were sensitive to the degree of responsibility in both contexts. The FRN was more negative when the participant had full responsibility (only the participant had erred) than when the participant shared responsibility with the confederate (both had erred) or had no responsibility (only the confederate had erred), and shared responsibility elicited more negative FRN than no responsibility. Having no responsibility produced larger P300 amplitudes than having shared or full responsibility, whereas there was no significant difference in P300 amplitude between the shared responsibility and the full responsibility conditions. When the shock was delivered to the participants, the P2 was smaller when there was no responsibility than when there was shared or full responsibility. When participants observed the painful facial expressions of the confederates, the P300 was not sensitive to responsibility level. Our results suggest that responsibility level modulates FRN and P300 in anticipation of pain experienced by both self and others, reflecting the attentional and affective experiences in both pain- and empathy-related processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13294
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

User-Defined Keywords

  • anticipatory pain
  • experienced pain
  • FRN
  • P2
  • P300
  • responsibility


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