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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Spontaneous dyadic behavior predicts the emergence of interpersonal neural synchrony

Koul, A., et al. (2023).
NeuroImage, 277, 120233.


Synchronization of neural activity across brains – Interpersonal Neural Synchrony (INS) – is emerging as a powerful marker of social interaction that predicts success of multi-person coordination, communication, and cooperation. As the origins of INS are poorly understood, we tested whether and how INS might emerge from spontaneous dyadic behavior. We recorded neural activity (EEG) and human behavior (full-body kinematics, eye movements, and facial expressions) while dyads of participants were instructed to look at each other without speaking or making co-verbal gestures. We made four fundamental observations. First, despite the absence of a structured social task, INS emerged spontaneously only when participants were able to see each other. Second, we show that such spontaneous INS, comprising specific spectral and topographic profiles, did not merely reflect intra-personal modulations of neural activity, but it rather reflected real-time and dyad-specific coupling of neural activities. Third, using state-of-art video-image processing and deep learning, we extracted the temporal unfolding of three notable social behavioral cues – body movement, eye contact, and smiling – and demonstrated that these behaviors also spontaneously synchronized within dyads. Fourth, we probed the correlates of INS in such synchronized social behaviors. Using cross-correlation and Granger causality analyses, we show that synchronized social behaviors anticipate and in fact Granger cause INS. These results provide proof-of-concept evidence for studying interpersonal neural and behavioral synchrony under natural and unconstrained conditions. Most importantly, the results suggest that INS could be conceptualized as an emergent property of two coupled neural systems: an entrainment phenomenon, promoted by real-time dyadic behavior.


• Interpersonal neural synchrony (INS) emerges spontaneously.

• INS only requires individuals to see each other (not a structured social task).

• Spontaneous INS emerges from dyad-specific behavioral synchrony.

• Reciprocated eye contact, body movement and smiling Granger cause INS.

• INS is an emergent property of two coupled neural systems.

Note: It would be interesting to measure the neurosynchronization between psychologist and patient to determine if it could improve psychotherapy outcomes.