PhD Graduate

PhD program:: XXXIV


Background In the past few years, the health promoting influences of compassion have stimulated the investigation of its underlying mechanisms. The psychophysiological perspective emphasized the link between compassion and cardiac vagal tone. At a brain level, compassion has been demonstrated to activate the salience network (SN) suggesting a key role of the insula, a region important for the integration of interoceptive states, emotions, and cognition and for generating motivated responses. However, there is still no consensus on the processes involved in compassion. To elucidate the mechanisms generating and sustaining compassion motivation, we adopted an evolutionary perspective framing it within an interoceptive active inference (IAI) account, which emphasizes the anticipatory dynamics of physiological regulation that enable the individual to proactively adapt to environmental change. Methods In Study 1, we meta-analyzed available studies on the association between compassion and heart rate variability (HRV), as an index of parasympathetic control of the heart. In Study 2, the association between HRV and each component of compassion, namely ‘empathic sensitivity’ and ‘action’, were investigated in a sample of university students. In Study 3, we examined whether anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the insula would modulate the engagement in compassion in healthy individuals. Dispositional measures and affective, behavioral and physiological outcomes were assessed in studies 2 and 3. Results The results highlight the connection between compassion and cardiac vagal tone and indicate that such association is not linear. Moreover, they suggest the modulatory effect of anodal tDCS over right temporal lobe (which includes the insula region) on compassion, mediated by an IAI process. Epistemological reflections on the complex nature of compassion may arise from the current findings and clinical implications for a better understanding of mechanisms underlying dysregulated functioning in clinical populations, as well as the potential of tDCS treatment in psychiatry.

Research products

11573/1626898 - 2022 - Compassion focused therapy and the body. How physiological underpinnings of prosociality inform clinical practice.
Petrocchi, N; Di Bello, M; Cheli, S; Ottaviani, C - 02a Capitolo o Articolo
book: Compassion Focused Therapy - (9781003035879)

11573/1549805 - 2022 - Filthiness of immorality: manipulating disgust and moral rigidity through noninvasive brain stimulation as a promising therapeutic tool for obsessive compulsive disorder
Salvo, Giuseppe; Provenzano, Samantha; Di Bello, Maria; D’Olimpio, Francesca; Ottaviani, Cristina; Mancini, Francesco - 01a Articolo in rivista
paper: CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE (Thousand Oaks, CA : SAGE Publications, [2013]-) pp. 127-140 - issn: 2167-7026 - wos: WOS:000656022800001 (7) - scopus: 2-s2.0-85106637670 (5)

11573/1527766 - 2021 - Compassion is not a benzo: distinctive associations of heart rate variability with its empathic and action components
Di Bello, Maria; Ottaviani, Cristina; Petrocchi, Nicola - 01a Articolo in rivista
paper: FRONTIERS IN NEUROSCIENCE (Lausanne (PO Box 110, 1015) : Frontiers Research Foundation, 2007-) pp. - - issn: 1662-4548 - wos: WOS:000632945100001 (16) - scopus: 2-s2.0-85103325676 (22)

11573/1625253 - 2021 - Efficacy of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) To Decrease Disgust and Moral Rigidity. Implications For the Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Di Bello, Maria; Salvo, Giuseppe; Provenzano, Samantha; D'olmpio, Francesca; Ottaviani, Cristina; Mancini, Francesco - 04c Atto di convegno in rivista
paper: BRAIN STIMULATION (Amsterdam, Oxford : Elsevier, 2008-) pp. 1595-1596 - issn: 1935-861X - wos: (0) - scopus: (0)
conference: the 4th International Brain Stimulation Meeting (Charleston, SC USA)

11573/1434469 - 2020 - The compassionate vagus: a meta-analysis on the connection between compassion and heart rate variability
Di Bello, M.; Carnevali, L.; Petrocchi, N.; Thayer, J. F.; Gilbert, P.; Ottaviani, C. - 01g Articolo di rassegna (Review)
paper: NEUROSCIENCE AND BIOBEHAVIORAL REVIEWS (Elsevier Science Limited:Oxford Fulfillment Center, PO Box 800, Kidlington Oxford OX5 1DX United Kingdom:011 44 1865 843000, 011 44 1865 843699, EMAIL:,, INTERNET:,, Fax: 011 44 1865 843010) pp. 21-30 - issn: 0149-7634 - wos: WOS:000549961200463 (0) - scopus: 2-s2.0-85086737355 (81)

11573/1452315 - 2020 - Neurovisceral integration in the executive control network: a resting state analysis
Mcintosh, Roger C; Hoshi, Rosangela; Nomi, Jason S; Di Bello, Maria; Goodman, Zachary T; Kornfeld, Salome; Uddin, Lucina Q; Ottaviani, Cristina - 01a Articolo in rivista
paper: BIOLOGICAL PSYCHOLOGY (Elsevier BV:PO Box 211, 1000 AE Amsterdam Netherlands:011 31 20 4853757, 011 31 20 4853642, 011 31 20 4853641, EMAIL:, INTERNET:, Fax: 011 31 20 4853598) pp. - - issn: 0301-0511 - wos: WOS:000595630600010 (11) - scopus: 2-s2.0-85096461603 (12)

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