Altruism and Health
Stephanie Brown has an on-going program of experimental work that is being conducted at the University of Michigan, in both the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the Institute for Social Research and the Department of Psychiatry with the Neuroimaging group led by Israel Liberzon and Stephen Taylor. In one series of studies, funded by the National Science Foundation, Brown is experimentally manipulating helping behavior and examining the physiological effects (for the helper). She is testing specifically factors that influence whether helping behavior accelerates recovery from cardiovascular stress, and whether hormones such as oxytocin, progesterone, and cortisol mediate any effects of behavioral variables on cardiovascular indicators of stress.
She is also the recipient of a grant from the Science of Generosity initiative out of Notre Dame (funded by the Templeton Foundation), in which, along with her co-PI James Swain and co-Is Sara Konrath and Shaun Ho, she examines neural responses to helping behavior, including hormonal mechanisms. This program of research uses neuroimaging to directly compare responses to helping behavior with responses to infant cues. The goal of this work is to test whether every day examples of generosity can be described by activation of a “caregiving system,” that originally evolved for the purpose of parenting.