Send anyone this way to read along, but for permission to reprint, please contact Gail.
© Gail Underwood Parker

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Soapbox: Hard-Wired for Compassion 2

Last week I talked about the idea that we are hard-wired to feel compassion and promised info on the science that supports this.  Neuroscientist Stephen Porges [University of Illinois at Chicago]  believes that the powerful, multi-faceted vagus nerve is the root of our body's instinctive compassionate reactions, going so far as to say it should be nicknamed the "compassion nerve."

Part of his basis is the research that indicates the vagus nerve reduces heart rate, creating a sense of calm, "produces a feeling of expanding warmth in the chest, such as when we are moved by someone's goodness or a beautiful artistic experience." Even newer research suggests that the vagus nerve may also be closely tied to the receptor networks for oxytocin... the neurotransmitter drug that is key to trust and maternal bonding... often called the drug that connects us.

Arizona State University psychologist Nancy Eisenberg has researched children with high vagus nerve activity and found them to be more cooperative and altruistic, making her another recent scientist who believes that we may be genetically, evolutionarily designed to be compassionate and connected.  What a wonderful idea that would be to confirm one day.  And if we find that to be true, perhaps it would not be too long before we could increase that natural sense of connection and empathy to be able to heal those struggling and lost?

Hard-wired for compassion.... what a wonderful idea! Imagine a world where that compassion could be nurtured and expanded, creating caring hearts and connected people.   -sigh-

Image credits:,

No comments:

Post a Comment