Christian Keysers

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Christian Keysers
Born Christian Keysers
(1973-06-27) June 27, 1973 (age 42)
Nationality German and French
Occupation Scientist
Employer Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience

Professor 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 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] Most recently, he has looked at the neural basis of abnormal empathy in schizophrenia, autism and psychopathy.[1] Currently, Keysers is a full Professor for the Social Brain at the medical faculty of the University of Groningen and University Medical Center Groningen and the Head of the Social Brain Lab of the prestigious Netherlands Institute for Neurosciences of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He has recently published a book called 'The Empathic Brain'[1] which won the Independent Publisher Book Award for best science book 2012 and explains his research to a wider public.
He is married to Neuroscientist Valeria Gazzola, and is a long-standing friend of the German writer Bas Kast.

Current Research Focus[edit]

While we watch a movie, we share the experiences of the actors we observe: our heart for instance starts beating faster while we see an actor slip from the roof of a tall building. Why? Specific brain areas are involved when we perform certain actions or have certain emotions or sensations. Interestingly, some of these areas are also recruited when we simply observe someone else performing similar actions, having similar sensations or having similar emotions. These areas called 'shared circuits' transform what we see into what we would have done or felt in the same situation. With such brain areas, understanding other people is not an effort of explicit thought but becomes an intuitive sharing of their emotions, sensations and actions. Through the investigation of shared circuits, he attempts to understand the neural basis of empathy and its dysfunctions in autism, schizophrenia and sociopathy.[1]

Awards and Grants[edit]

Christian Keysers has received the prestigious European Research Council starting grant, the Marie Curie Actions Excellence Grant [1] of the European Commission and a VIDI Grant of the Dutch National Science Foundation [2]. He also received the highly competitive Marie Curie Excellence Award and the Research Prize of the University Medical Center Groningen. As a student he was a member of the Studienstiftung, Germany's most prestigious foundation for the promotion of excellence in study. He also earned the Independent Publisher Book Award gold medal for best science book 2012. He is a member of the Young Academy of Europe since 2012, and was elected into the Board of that academy in 2014.


  1. ^ a b c d 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. 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. 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. doi:10.1126/science.1070311. PMID 12161656. 
  5. ^ 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. ^ 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. 

External links[edit]

  • Website of the social brain lab at the NIN [3]
  • GoogleScholar profile [4]
  • Website for the book The Empathic Brain [5]