Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Erin C. Tully

Second Advisor

Erin B. Tone

Third Advisor

Michelle M. Robbins


Middle childhood is a critical period for social-emotional development as children experience increasing demands for regulated empathic responses to others’ positive and negative emotions. The current study identified whether key neural regions associated with empathy-related affect sharing in response to mother’s happiness and sadness showed significantly greater activity relative to a control condition when children (N = 33) in middle childhood completed a neuroimaging task designed to elicit empathic responses. The amygdala, a region associated with visceral affect sharing, showed significant activity (relative to a control condition) when children observed their mother’s sadness, but not her happiness. Regions associated with integration of social information (dACC and AI) and regulation of emotional responses (vmPFC) did not show significant activity when children observed their mother’s happiness or her sadness. These results provide evidence at a neural level that children in middle childhood respond viscerally to their mother’s sadness but not her happiness.


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Available for download on Wednesday, December 03, 2025