Peggy Mason, PhD

After a 25-year focus on the cellular mechanisms of pain modulation (how does morphine work? and related questions), my laboratory’s energy 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? We are using a variety of methods to go into the brain and understand the circuits underlying pro-social behavior



In addition to leading a research laboratory, I am committed to teaching neurobiology to anyone that will listen. As the first “neuroevangelist,” I tweet as @NeuroMOOC and blog at http://thebrainissocool.com. I am also thrilled to be able to teach neurobiology to the interested public through a massively open online course (MOOC) on Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/course/neurobio). My initial session of Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life was offered in 2014 and attracted more than 55,000 students; a second session will be starting up in early 2015. I welcome all to come join in the neuro-fun!

Lessons from helping behavior in rats.
Mason P. Lessons from helping behavior in rats. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2021 06; 68:52-56.
PMID: 33498010

The bystander effect in rats.
Havlik JL, Vieira Sugano YY, Jacobi MC, Kukreja RR, Jacobi JHC, Mason P. The bystander effect in rats. Sci Adv. 2020 07; 6(28):eabb4205.
PMID: 32923593

The bystander effect in rats.
Havlik JL, Vieira Sugano YY, Jacobi MC, Kukreja RR, Jacobi JHC, Mason P. The bystander effect in rats. Sci Adv. 2020 Jul; 6(28).
PMID: 32937520

Behavioral Tests for Mouse Models of Autism: An Argument for the Inclusion of Cerebellum-Controlled Motor Behaviors.
Simmons DH, Titley HK, Hansel C, Mason P. Behavioral Tests for Mouse Models of Autism: An Argument for the Inclusion of Cerebellum-Controlled Motor Behaviors. Neuroscience. 2021 05 10; 462:303-319.
PMID: 32417339

A valence-free definition of sociality as any violation of inter-individual independence.
Mason P, Shan H. A valence-free definition of sociality as any violation of inter-individual independence. Proc Biol Sci. 2017 Nov 15; 284(1866).
PMID: 29118128

Nicotinic modulation of descending pain control circuitry.
Umana IC, Daniele CA, Miller BA, Abburi C, Gallagher K, Brown MA, Mason P, McGehee DS. Nicotinic modulation of descending pain control circuitry. Pain. 2017 Oct; 158(10):1938-1950.
PMID: 28817416

Anxiolytic Treatment Impairs Helping Behavior in Rats.
Ben-Ami Bartal I, Shan H, Molasky NM, Murray TM, Williams JZ, Decety J, Mason P. Anxiolytic Treatment Impairs Helping Behavior in Rats. Front Psychol. 2016; 7:850.
PMID: 27375528

With a little help from our friends: how the brain processes empathy.
Mason P. With a little help from our friends: how the brain processes empathy. Cerebrum. 2014 Sep-Oct; 2014:14.
PMID: 26034521

Pro-social behavior in rats is modulated by social experience.
Ben-Ami Bartal I, Rodgers DA, Bernardez Sarria MS, Decety J, Mason P. Pro-social behavior in rats is modulated by social experience. Elife. 2014; 3:e01385.
PMID: 24424411

Caffeine accelerates recovery from general anesthesia.
Wang Q, Fong R, Mason P, Fox AP, Xie Z. Caffeine accelerates recovery from general anesthesia. J Neurophysiol. 2014 Mar; 111(6):1331-40.
PMID: 24375022

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