Empathy and prosociality are among the most celebrated human characteristics, especially during these times of widespread suffering and social divisions. The capacities to empathize with those in distress or need and to take actions to improve their well-being have played a significant role in the evolutionary success of our species, and continue to unite our society. Humans frequently behave in ways that benefit others, even at a personal cost, from making donations to strangers to sacrificing one’s life for common goals. Other mammalian species, from non-human primates to rodents, also display prosocial behaviours including comforting, helping, and resource sharing. However, deficits in empathy and prosociality are prominent symptoms in several psychiatric disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, and psychopathy. Therefore, understanding the neural mechanisms of empathic and prosocial behaviours bears important social and clinical implications. However, the neural circuitry and computational mechanisms underlying empathy and prosocial behaviours in health and disease remains largely unknown and many fundamental questions are still unanswered. To address this gap, my lab aims to uncover the neural mechanisms of empathy and prosocial behaviours.
Dr Hong is a Professor of Neurobiology, Biological Chemistry, and Bioengineering at the University of California Los Angeles. His research aims to uncover the fundamental neural mechanisms underlying social behavior, with a specific focus on empathy and prosociality. Dr Hong earned his PhD degree in 2012 from Stanford University and was a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow at the California Institute of Technology from 2012-2015. In 2016, he joined UCLA as an Assistant Professor, and he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2020 and to Full Professor in 2023. He is the recipient of many awards, including a Young Investigator Award from the Society for Neuroscience, an Early Career Award from the Society for Social Neuroscience, a Mallinkrodt Scholar Award, a Vallee Scholar Award, a Searle Scholar Award, a Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering, a McKnight Scholar Award, a Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship, and a Sloan Research Fellowship.