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  • Book
    Jana Schaich Borg.
    Digital2012
    Over half of all violent crimes are committed by only about 5% of offenders. While most healthy people feel strong aversion to seeing other people in pain, fear, or sadness, a phenomenon I define as "negative intersubjectivity", these persistent violent offenders (PVOs) have blunted reactions to other people's distress and the strength of their negative intersubjectivity deficit correlates with how much violence they ultimately perform. This suggests that if we could learn how to enhance PVOs aversion to other people's distress, we could decrease their violent behavior. In this dissertation, I describe a new rat model that can be used to study the neural mechanisms underlying negative intersubjectivity. I demonstrate that Observer rats will overcome their innate aversion of bright light to consistently avoid a dark, safe space if entering that dark space is paired with another Receiver rat getting shocked, a behavior called "intersubjective avoidance". In Chapter 2, I describe the relatively poor intersubjective avoidance behavior of mice. In Chapter 3, I describe the comparatively strong intersubjective avoidance behavior of rats, and show that rats' intersubjective avoidance is enhanced by personal experience with shock. In Chapter 4, I use patterns of expression of the immediate early gene c-Fos to determine whether activity in candidate brain regions correlates with intersubjective avoidance. I provide evidence that many brain regions--including the anterior cingulate, anterior insula, infralimbic cortex, and central amygdala--are active both when observing shock in another and when receiving shock to oneself, similar to what has been shown by fMRI studies of humans observing others in pain. However, within these areas, only activity in the anterior cingulate robustly correlates with how much intersubjective avoidance each individual Observer rat performs, perhaps analogous to how fMRI studies in humans have show that anterior cingulate activity correlates with humans' self-reports of "empathy". These results validate the rat model of intersubjective avoidance as model of negative intersubjectivity in humans, and highlight the anterior cingulate as a potential target for negative intersubjectivity interventions. In Chapter 5, I describe future experiments and discuss how research using this new behavioral paradigm may help develop treatments for not only PVOs, but all anti-social behavior.