Susan Krauss Whitbourne explores empathy and coping after disasters:
Research shows that when we see others being harmed, our brains react in similar ways as if we were being harmed. The areas of the brain involved in this reaction extend beyond the amygdala to regions of the cortex involved in analyzing and interpreting the behavior of others, the so-called "theory of mind." These events also stimulate us to think of our own experiences of pain or trauma; in other words, our "autobiographical memory" ... We remember the times when we were in danger or in pain and our brain, in a sense, reaches out and imagines how the actual victims are thinking and feeling.
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