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Paul Farquhar-Smith

, Pierre Beaulieu

, and Sian Jagger

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date: 27 October 2021

The landmark paper discussed in this chapter is ‘Social modulation of pain as evidence for empathy in mice’, published in 2006 by Langford et al. in Mogil’s lab at McGill University, Montreal. It elegantly demonstrated (1) that mice observed and responded to one another’s pain—effectively, socially mediated hyperalgesia; (2) that this was modulated by the nature of the social relationship, occurring between cagemates but not strangers; (3) that the mechanism in the observing mouse involved central sensitization, not local effects. The interactive behaviour met requirements for empathic responding; neither imitation nor emotional contagion could account for these effects. The findings have implications for lab pain research using rodents, for understanding of empathic responses in animals, and for understanding animal social behaviour more widely.

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