In a study published in the journal Neuroimage, researchers measured the presence of gray matter in 176 subjects' brains using a technology called voxel-based morphometry. They found a connection between where gray matter resides in the brain and how people process cognitive and effective empathy.

People who possess more gray matter in the insula-the central part of the brain where strong emotions originate, are the ones who tend to show more effective empathy. Subjects with more matter in the midcingulate cortex, where the brain's two hemispheres meet, were more cognitive in their responses.

The evidence shows that empathy and cognitive affect are multi-faceted components, affected by different parts of the organ. In the future, researchers are trying to decipher whether empathy can be transferred through different parts of the brain, and whether this changes the physical makeup of the tissue. 

Cover image: Wikimedia Commons