The Science of Compassion

From the perspective of psychology and neuroscience, compassion is a distinct emotion that when cultivated and practiced creates patterns of neural activation in the brain, strengthens bonds with others, and promotes personal and psychological well-being.

Compassionate Presence Brain

The science of compassion underscores our innate ability to care for another.  It is part of our care/nurturance emotional system, which is triggered and aimed at providing physical and psychological nurturance towards those who are vulnerable or in distress.  This flow of compassion from attuned parents to vulnerable offspring and between intimate partners act as a catalyst for subsequent feelings of affinity and solidarity with the rest of humanity.

In other words, compassion is deeply embedded in human nature and by extension is sculpted and supported by specific neural circuitry or patterns in the brain.   Recently, there has been an emerging body of research that looks specifically into the neural underpinnings of compassion as well as its positive effects on the human body and social relationships.   These studies reveal several neural networks that are implicated or associated with compassion that when “turned on” perform a comprehensive cognitive, affective, physiological, and behavioural responses.