Christian Keysers

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Christian Keysers
Christian Keysers

(1973-06-27) June 27, 1973 (age 47)
NationalityGerman and French
EmployerNetherlands Institute for Neuroscience

Christian Keysers is a French and German neuroscientist.[1]

Education and career[edit]

He finished his school education at the European School, Munich and studied psychology and biology at the University of Konstanz, the Ruhr University Bochum, University of Massachusetts Boston, the Shepens eye research Institute of the Harvard Medical School as well as with Marvin Minsky at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then started his research career at the University of St Andrews by investigating cells in the temporal cortex with David Perrett, and described cells that respond when the monkey views particular faces in a way that correlates with conscious perception.[2] After that, he moved to the University of Parma where he was part of the team that discovered auditory mirror neurons[3][4] in the frontal cortex of the macaque monkey. He then expanded the notion of mirror neurons to emotions and sensations, by showing that your somatosensory cortex is active not only when you are being touched, but also if you see someone else being touched,[5] and that your insular cortex is active not only if you feel disgusted, but also if you see someone else being disgusted.[6] More recently, he has looked at the neural basis of abnormal empathy in schizophrenia, autism and psychopathy.[1][7] [8] Currently, Keysers is a full Professor for the Social Brain at the Brain and Cognition program of the University of Amsterdam and he co-leads the Social Brain Lab of the prestigious Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He has recently published a book called 'The Empathic Brain'.[1]

Research career[edit]

He has collaborated with the French neuroimaging specialist Bruno Wicker, in using functional magnetic resonance imaging, and showed for the first time, that the secondary somatosensory cortex, previously thought only to represent a persons own experiences of touch, is also activated when seeing someone or something else be touched.[5] They also showed that the insula, thought only to respond to the experience of first-hand emotions, was also activated when we see another individual experience similar emotions.[6] Together this indicated a much more general principle than the original mirror neuron theory, in which people process the actions, sensations and emotions of others by vicariously activating one’s own actions, sensations and emotions.[9] Jointly, this work laid the foundation of the neuroscientific investigation of empathy.

At the University of Groningen, the team also demonstrated that rats show empathy for the others.[10]


  1. ^ a b c Keysers, Christian (2011-06-23). The Empathic Brain. Social Brain Press.
  2. ^ Keysers, Christian; Xiao, D.K.; Foldiak, P.; Perrett, D.I. (2001). "The speed of sight". J Cogn Neurosci. 13 (1): 90–101. doi:10.1162/089892901564199. PMID 11224911.
  3. ^ Keysers, Christian; Kohler, E.; Umilta, M.A.; Nanetti, L.; Fogassi, L.; Gallese, Vittorio (2003). "Audiovisual mirror neurons and action recognition". Exp Brain Res. 153 (4): 628–36. CiteSeerX doi:10.1007/s00221-003-1603-5. PMID 12937876.
  4. ^ Kohler, E.; Keysers, Christian; Umilta, M.A.; Fogassi, L.; Gallese, Vittorio; Rizzolatti, G. (2002). "Hearing sounds, understanding actions: action representation in mirror neurons". Science. 297 (5582): 846–8. CiteSeerX doi:10.1126/science.1070311. PMID 12161656.
  5. ^ a b Keysers, Christian; Wicker, Bruno; Gazzola, V.; Anton, J.L.; Fogassi, L.; Gallese, Vittorio (2004). "A touching sight: SII/PV activation during the observation and experience of touch". Neuron. 42 (2): 335–46. doi:10.1016/S0896-6273(04)00156-4. PMID 15091347.
  6. ^ a b Wicker, Bruno; Keysers, Christian; Plailly, J.; Royet, J.P.; Gallese, V.; Rizzolatti, G. (2003). "Both of us disgusted in My insula: the common neural basis of seeing and feeling disgust". Neuron. 40 (3): 655–64. doi:10.1016/S0896-6273(03)00679-2. PMID 14642287.
  7. ^ Bastiaansen, Jojanneke A.; Thioux, Marc; Nanetti, Luca; van der Gaag, Christiaan; Ketelaars, Cees; Minderaa, Ruud; Keysers, Christian (2011). "Age-Related Increase in Inferior Frontal Gyrus Activity and Social Functioning in Autism Spectrum Disorder". Biological Psychiatry. 69 (9): 832–838. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.11.007. ISSN 0006-3223. PMID 21310395.
  8. ^ Meffert, H.; Gazzola, V.; den Boer, J. A.; Bartels, A. A. J.; Keysers, C. (2013). "Reduced spontaneous but relatively normal deliberate vicarious representations in psychopathy". Brain. 136 (8): 2550–2562. doi:10.1093/brain/awt190. ISSN 0006-8950. PMC 3722356. PMID 23884812.
  9. ^ Keysers, Christian; Gazzola, Valeria (2006). Towards a unifying neural theory of social cognition. Progress in Brain Research. 156. pp. 379–401. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/S0079-6123(06)56021-2. ISBN 9780444521828. ISSN 0079-6123. PMID 17015092.
  10. ^ Atsak, Piray; Orre, Marie; Bakker, Petra; Cerliani, Leonardo; Roozendaal, Benno; Gazzola, Valeria; Moita, Marta; Keysers, Christian (2011). "Experience Modulates Vicarious Freezing in Rats: A Model for Empathy". PLoS ONE. 6 (7): e21855. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021855. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 3135600. PMID 21765921.

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