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Curr Biol. 2017 May 8;27(9):1375-1380. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.002. Epub 2017 Apr 27.

Brain-to-Brain Synchrony Tracks Real-World Dynamic Group Interactions in the Classroom.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, New York University, 6 Washington Place, New York, NY 10003, USA; Department of Language and Communication, Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS, Utrecht University, Trans 10, 3512 JK Utrecht, the Netherlands. Electronic address: sdikker@gmail.com.
2
J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Florida, 1275 Center Drive, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.
3
Department of Psychology, New York University, 6 Washington Place, New York, NY 10003, USA.
4
Leidekkerssteeg 1, 1012 GH Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
5
New York, NY 10024, USA.
6
Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Grüneburgweg 14, 60322 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
7
Department of Psychology, New York University, 6 Washington Place, New York, NY 10003, USA; Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Grüneburgweg 14, 60322 Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Electronic address: david.poeppel@gmail.com.

Abstract

The human brain has evolved for group living [1]. Yet we know so little about how it supports dynamic group interactions that the study of real-world social exchanges has been dubbed the "dark matter of social neuroscience" [2]. Recently, various studies have begun to approach this question by comparing brain responses of multiple individuals during a variety of (semi-naturalistic) tasks [3-15]. These experiments reveal how stimulus properties [13], individual differences [14], and contextual factors [15] may underpin similarities and differences in neural activity across people. However, most studies to date suffer from various limitations: they often lack direct face-to-face interaction between participants, are typically limited to dyads, do not investigate social dynamics across time, and, crucially, they rarely study social behavior under naturalistic circumstances. Here we extend such experimentation drastically, beyond dyads and beyond laboratory walls, to identify neural markers of group engagement during dynamic real-world group interactions. We used portable electroencephalogram (EEG) to simultaneously record brain activity from a class of 12 high school students over the course of a semester (11 classes) during regular classroom activities (Figures 1A-1C; Supplemental Experimental Procedures, section S1). A novel analysis technique to assess group-based neural coherence demonstrates that the extent to which brain activity is synchronized across students predicts both student class engagement and social dynamics. This suggests that brain-to-brain synchrony is a possible neural marker for dynamic social interactions, likely driven by shared attention mechanisms. This study validates a promising new method to investigate the neuroscience of group interactions in ecologically natural settings.

KEYWORDS:

brain synchrony; classroom engagement; educational neuroscience; group affinity; hyper-scanning; oscillations; portable EEG; real-world experimentation; social neuroscience

PMID:
28457867
DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.002
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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