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Faculty Fellow

Peggy Mason

Professor of Neurobiology University of Chicago


After a 25-year focus on the cellular mechanisms of pain modulation (how does morphine work? and related questions), Peggy Mason's laboratory is now focused on the biological basis of empathy and helping. Important questions include:

Do rats help another in distress? Yes.

Who do they help? Strangers and familiars alike, as long as they know the type (strain) of rat.

What motivates rats to help another in distress? This is a work in progress but right now, it looks as though the motivation is a rodent version of empathy.

What are the brain circuits that support affective communication between two individuals? Mason's laboratory uses a variety of methods to go into the brain and understand the circuits underlying pro-social behavior.

In addition to leading a research laboratory, Mason is committed to teaching neurobiology to anyone that will listen. As the first “neuroevangelist,” Mason tweets as @NeuroMOOC and blogs at Mason is also thrilled to be able to teach neurobiology to the interested public through a massively open online course (MOOC) on Coursera. Mason's initial session of Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life was offered in 2014 and attracted more than 55,000 students.

For more details on her research and publications, please visit her profile page at the University of Chicago.

Featured Project

Emotion Construction Without a Sense of the Body

Project Team:

2018 – 2020


The Language of Kim

The Language of Kim

Studying “Kim,” an individual with a radically limited sensory palate, researchers formalized a new method of understanding the link between linguistic encoding of sensory perception and actual perception.

This project adopted a field linguistic approach to interrogate the subjectivity of human experience in the absence of a typical sensory palate. The research, drawing on insights from neurobiology and linguistics, centered on a remarkable individual, Kim, whose sensory world is radically...

Project Team: