How does the brain respond to natural disasters?

What is the brain's response to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster?

An interesting article in Psychology Today, by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, on our empathetic response to natural disasters.

The Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami of March 11, 2011 was the country’s largest natural disaster. As in all too many previous cases, including the Haitian earthquake of 2010, people around the world are riveted to the television screen and internet as the vast devastation and human toll of these massive disasters continues to unfold.

Media coverage of these events documents, sometimes for days on end, the human toll of nature’s wrath.  Why are people so likely to stay glued to the news media during these times of crisis? Are we all basically rubberneckers at heart who watch these crises with a kind of sadistic voyeurism? Research on the brain regions triggered when watching other people who are in trouble suggests a very different interpretation.  

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