During the evolution of the primate CNS, organization of neural activity
has been shaped by the need for rapid and accurate evaluation of the
motivations of others. Using a broad biological approach, the author
considers empathy from evolutionary, ontogenetic, and neurophysiological
viewpoints. Emotional communication follows a developmental course in
primate evolution and in individuals: specialized neural activity and CNS
organization subserve the interpretation of social signals.
Neurophysiological studies now in progress may shed light on fundamental
questions about the nature of empathy.