UNIT 8.27 A Mouse Model for Observational Fear Learning and the Empathetic Response

  1. Daejong Jeon1,
  2. Hee-Sup Shin2

Published Online: 1 OCT 2011

DOI: 10.1002/0471142301.ns0827s57

Current Protocols in Neuroscience

Current Protocols in Neuroscience

How to Cite

Jeon, D. and Shin, H.-S. 2011. A Mouse Model for Observational Fear Learning and the Empathetic Response. Current Protocols in Neuroscience. 57:8.27:8.27.1–8.27.9.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Brain Behavior and Therapeutics Laboratory, Department of Bio and Brain Engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Daejeon, Republic of Korea

  2. 2

    Brain Science Institute, Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Seoul, Republic of Korea

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 OCT 2011
  2. Published Print: OCT 2011


Research on observed fear and its relation to human mental disorders has been hampered by the lack of a suitable animal model. The empathetic response, which is impaired in various mental disorders, requires the ability to recognize the emotions and feelings of others. Due to the lack of a robust behavioral assay system, studies of empathy in laboratory animals have been absent from the literature. This unit describes a protocol for assessing social observational fear learning as a precursor of empathy in the mouse. In this assay, the observer animal is conditioned for context-dependent fear by observing the behavior of the demonstrator animal receiving aversive stimuli. The magnitude of the fear response of the observer is positively influenced by the animal's familiarity with the demonstrator. This indicates that the degree of familiarity, and its relationship to empathy, can be modeled in an animal system by a method relevant to human disease. Curr. Protoc. Neurosci. 57:8.27.1-8.27.9. © 2011 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


  • context-dependent fear conditioning;
  • empathy;
  • familiarity;
  • social learning;
  • social fear;
  • observational fear