Peggy Mason, Ph.D.
Peggy Mason, Ph.D., is a professor of neurobiology at the University of Chicago and the author of Medical Neurobiology (Oxford University Press, 2011). Dr. Mason offers an open online course, “Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life,” through Coursera ( https://www.coursera.org/course/neurobio).
She also maintains a blog at http://thebrainissocool.com/. For more than 20 years, Dr. Mason’s research was focused on the cellular mechanisms of pain modulation. In the last several years, she has turned her energies to the biology of empathy and prosocial behavior. Originally from the Washington, D.C., area, Dr. Mason received her bachelor of arts degree in biology in 1983 and her Ph.D. in neuroscience in 1987, both from Harvard University. After postdoctoral work at the University of California-San Francisco, she joined the faculty at the University of Chicago in 1992. A lively discussion of her empathic helping work can be found at reddit.com/r/science/comments/23o5w4/science_ama_series_hi_im_peggy_mason_i_study.
With a Little Help from Our Friends: How the Brain Processes Empathy
Why are certain individuals born with a brain that is wired to help others? What daily habits or life experiences reinforce compassion but also selfishness, narcissism, and psychopathy? Social neuroscience models have assumed that people simply rely on their own emotions as a reference for empathy, but recent studies suggest neurobiological underpinnings for how the brain processes empathy. A better understanding of these processes, says the author, could lead to more social cohesion and less antisocial harm in society.