Ph.D. student Stewart Cox joins MUSC from Colorado and has recently developed a new way to study empathy on rodents. He hopes to better understand how empathy works, and how the rodent brain is affected when exposed to drugs. Stewart enjoys listening to bluegrass, loves to climb and lived out of his Volkswagen van traveling the U.S and climbing before buckling down to start medical school at MUSC.
Empathy is the action of understanding and vicariously experiencing the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of another. Simply put, it’s the derivative of the cliched expression “put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” Interestingly enough, the ability to understand another’s feelings is not exclusive to humans. It has been demonstrated that many animal species, including rats, exhibit certain forms of empathetic behaviors. With the help of his lab members, PhD student Stewart Cox has developed a new model of studying empathy in rats, in hopes of better understanding empathy in humans. The team hopes that this new model will improve therapies for individuals suffering from cognitive disorders where empathy is affected, like substance abuse. Stewart is traveling to the Society for Neuroscience to present his lab’s findings.