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Cooperation and Competition with Hyperscanning Methods: Review and Future Application to Emotion Domain


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Cooperation and competition, as two common and opposite examples of interpersonal dynamics, are thought to be reflected by different cognitive, neural, and behavioral patterns. According to the conventional approach, they have been explored by measuring subjects' reactions during individual performance or turn-based interactions in artificial settings, that don't allow on-line, ecological enactment of real-life social exchange. Considering the importance of these factors, and accounting for the complexity of such phenomena, the hyperscanning approach emerged as a multi-subject paradigm since it allows the simultaneous recording of the brain activity from multiple participants interacting. In this view, the present paper aimed at reviewing the most significant work about cooperation and competition by EEG hyperscanning technique, which proved to be a promising tool in capturing the sudden course of social interactions. In detail, the review will consider and group different experimental tasks that have been developed so far: (1) paradigms that used rhythm, music and motor synchronization; (2) card tasks taken from the Game Theory; (3) computerized tasks; and (4) possible real-life applications. Finally, although highlighting the potential contribution of such approach, some important limitations about these paradigms will be elucidated, with a specific focus on the emotional domain.
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published: 29 September 2017
doi: 10.3389/fncom.2017.00086
Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience | 1September 2017 | Volume 11 | Article 86
Edited by:
Giuseppe Placidi,
University of L’Aquila, Italy
Reviewed by:
Erika Molteni,
University College London,
United Kingdom
Roberto Santana,
University of the Basque Country
(UPV/EHU), Spain
Maria E. Vanutelli
Received: 12 July 2017
Accepted: 06 September 2017
Published: 29 September 2017
Balconi M and Vanutelli ME (2017)
Cooperation and Competition with
Hyperscanning Methods: Review and
Future Application to Emotion Domain.
Front. Comput. Neurosci. 11:86.
doi: 10.3389/fncom.2017.00086
Cooperation and Competition with
Hyperscanning Methods: Review and
Future Application to Emotion
Michela Balconi 1, 2 and Maria E. Vanutelli 1, 2, 3
1Research Unit in Affective and Social Neuroscience, Catholic University of Milan, Milan, Italy, 2Department of Psychology,
Catholic University of Milan, Milan, Italy, 3Department of Philosophy, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy
Cooperation and competition, as two common and opposite examples of interpersonal
dynamics, are thought to be reflected by different cognitive, neural, and behavioral
patterns. According to the conventional approach, they have been explored by
measuring subjects’ reactions during individual performance or turn-based interactions
in artificial settings, that don’t allow on-line, ecological enactment of real-life social
exchange. Considering the importance of these factors, and accounting for the
complexity of such phenomena, the hyperscanning approach emerged as a multi-subject
paradigm since it allows the simultaneous recording of the brain activity from multiple
participants interacting. In this view, the present paper aimed at reviewing the most
significant work about cooperation and competition by EEG hyperscanning technique,
which proved to be a promising tool in capturing the sudden course of social interactions.
In detail, the review will consider and group different experimental tasks that have been
developed so far: (1) paradigms that used rhythm, music and motor synchronization;
(2) card tasks taken from the Game Theory; (3) computerized tasks; and (4) possible
real-life applications. Finally, although highlighting the potential contribution of such
approach, some important limitations about these paradigms will be elucidated, with
a specific focus on the emotional domain.
Keywords: EEG, emotions, hyperscanning, cooperation, competition, social interaction, synchronization
Cooperation and competition are two common and opposite models of interpersonal exchange
(Decety et al., 2004). In fact, according to the interaction type, individuals could facilitate, but
also obstruct, others’ goal achievement. Nonetheless, the two modalities share some important
features. First, from an evolutionary point of view, they are both recognized as human behavioral
patterns devoted to survival, although in different ways. Second, they both require some cognitive
capacities such as monitoring and mentalizing abilities, to attribute independent mental states, such
as thoughts, beliefs, and desires, to others (Flavell, 1999). This allows anticipating and predicting
others’ intentions and adjusting ones own action accordingly (Decety and Sommerville, 2003). For
these reasons, many previous studies focused on these two models as a good example of social
and emotional sharing. For example, Decety et al. (2004) asked subjects to participate in couples
to a computer game in a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scan and compared
Balconi and Vanutelli Exploring Emotions with EEG Hyperscanning
their neural responses during cooperation and competition.
Results highlighted the presence of common networks related
to executive functions, as well as a more specific recruitment of
different brain areas according to the different mental framework
engaged. Also, Liu et al. (2015), by using functional near infra-
red spectroscopy (fNIRS), found a differential activation of the
right inferior frontal gyrus during cooperation and competition
in a turn-taking game. Moreover, Cui et al. (2015) explored the
role of these two context in modulating empathy for pain by
using event-related potentials (ERP). Finally, Balconi and Pagani
(2014, 2015) experimentally manipulated the perceived efficacy
during a competitive task to investigate social hierarchies and
ranking. However, it has been suggested that the study of social
cognition could be reductive and partial by using single-subject
or turn-taking paradigm (Schilbach, 2010).
Recent scientific evidence studied these forms of synchronous
interactions by considering brain-to-brain coupling. In fact, it has
been shown that observing the actions, emotions or feelings of
other people can trigger corresponding cortical representations
(Hasson et al., 2012), a mechanism defined as vicarious activation
(Keysers and Gazzola, 2009). It appears clear that similar
processes cannot be captured by conventional experimental
approach on individual brains. In the attempt to move a step
forward, the hyperscanning paradigm emerged in contrast to
previous research approach to allow the simultaneous recording
of the neural activation from two, but also multiple, participants
interacting jointly (Montague, 2002). This technique permitted
to discover typical patterns of inter-brain synchronization during
social and emotional exchange thus providing data that can’t be
obtained by recording single brain activities alone (Babiloni and
Astolfi, 2012).
Previous work conducted with imaging techniques such as
fMRI allowed identifying the brain areas that are involved
during emotional sharing. Nonetheless, fMRI can provide
only partial support to this ambitious aim in that it lacks
temporal resolution. Also, it is unable to provide a real-
time ecological environment in that participants have to lie
motionless in a noisy and often emotionally daunting scanner
while the verbal communication is discouraged (Cui et al., 2012).
Conversely, EEG hyperscanning studies provide higher temporal
resolution that permits capturing real-time events. Prior findings
showed inter-brain phase coherence across different frequencies,
including delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma, that can be
attributed to a series of different processes, from perception, to
cognition, and especially emotion (Balconi et al., 2015). Among
the most used techniques are correlation or coherence-based
analyses (King-Casas et al., 2005; Funane et al., 2011; Cui et al.,
2012), which move from the assumption that the modifications
in the activity of certain cerebral regions in subjects can share the
same generator/generative source.
Thus, the aim of the present review is to collect and
describe existing research on cooperative/competitive dynamics
conducted with a hyperscanning approach as a promising
paradigm for social neuroscience. Previous reviews already
explored the potentiality of such paradigm to social interactions
(Dumas et al., 2011; Liu and Pelowski, 2014; Koike et al., 2015),
but none of them explicitly focused on these two opposite
scenarios, which could provide some precious findings for every-
day social life, from work environment, to prosocial behaviors,
from collective performance, to affiliation and dyadic bonds. EEG
will be valued as a promising technique to capture the sudden and
unpredictable modification related to social interactions.
In the next section, the most important evidence in the field
will be reviewed and grouped according to the different materials
and experimental tasks.
The selection criteria included: use of EEG technique; use of
hyperscanning paradigm with real-time interactions; explicit
use of cooperative and/or competitive paradigms. According
to the different materials and experimental paradigms used
to reproduce the social dynamics, available evidence has been
grouped in four different categories: paradigms that used rhythm,
music, and motor synchronization (section Rhythm, Music,
and Motor Synchronization); paradigms based on card tasks
taken from the Game Theory (section Evidence from the
Game Theory); paradigms based on computerized tasks (section
Computer-Based Paradigms); and possible real-life applications
(section Real-Life Applications).
Rhythm, Music, and Motor Synchronization
Some previous studies used rhythmic synchronization to assess
the capacity to cooperate each other. Lindenberger et al.
(2009) found that, when playing a short melody together,
dyads of guitarists showed increased phase synchronized
theta and delta oscillations. The authors suggested that
coordinated behaviors are characterized by inter-brain oscillatory
coherence. Also, since the reported rhythms were all in
lower frequency range, it is possible that the similarities in
sensorimotor feedback could have enhanced between-brain
To disambiguate this issue the same team (Sänger et al.,
2012) later used a similar but advanced paradigm with a more
complex piece of music such that the two members of the
couple would have different roles, a leader, and a follower.
The paradigm reduced similarities in movement, proprioception,
and perception. Results extended previous data and attributed
between-brain phase coherence to musical coordination periods.
Also, since the effects were larger at frontal and central sites, it
was proposed that the on-line representation of one’s own and
others’ actions and their combination into a joint, coupled model,
may help supporting interpersonal action coordination (IAC).
A recent finger-tapping experiment replicated this
asymmetrical pattern in leader-follower dynamics (Konvalinka
et al., 2014): it was demonstrated that it is possible to differentiate
roles on the basis of the modulation of frontal alpha-suppression,
being this latter prominent in leaders than followers. It has been
hypothesized that leaders probably allocated more resources to
self-processing to monitor their own rhythm, while followers
should monitor the output of their partner.
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Balconi and Vanutelli Exploring Emotions with EEG Hyperscanning
Analogously, another study by Yun et al. (2012) used a
leader-follower task to demonstrate the presence of implicit
motor synchronization when interacting with another human.
Seated face to face, a leader had to perform hand movements
and another player had to imitate them at their best. Finally,
both participants were asked to freeze. The behavioral results
highlighted that the two mates implicitly synchronized their
movements, mainly during the final phase that followed
imitation. EEG results showed higher phase synchronization
following the imitation phase within theta and beta frequency
bands over the inferior frontal gyrus, anterior cingulate,
parahippocampal gyrus, and post-central gyrus. Such results were
considered as an improved coupling between the two cognitive
Similarly, Dumas et al. (2010) used a video feedback system
and asked subjects to imitate the other’s hands movement.
The researchers found higher inter-brain phase synchronization
within mu, beta, and gamma range in the right centro-parietal
areas of the two brains during behavioral synchrony.
Finally, a work by Kawasaki et al. (2013) explored the
presence of inter-brain correlation during speech rhythm
synchronization. Results showed that speech rhythms were
more easily synchronized in the joint condition with respect
to the individual condition where subjects performed the
same task within a computerized session. Moreover, increased
synchronized theta/alpha amplitudes were found in the same
temporal and lateral-parietal regions known to be associated
with social cognition, such as comprehending others’ intentions,
affects, and actions (Adolphs, 1999) (Figure 1).
The mentioned studies are relevant to neuropsychophysiology
since they show how neural synchronization can emerge and
be studied with simple matched behaviors involving motor and
rhythmic coordination. Moreover, it has been shown that EEG
technique can recognize the different roles assumed within the
couple. In fact, the cognitive and behavioral states related to the
joint task can modulate rhythm synchronization.
Evidence from the Game Theory
A series of studies conducted by Astolfi et al. (2009,
2010, 2011b,c) used the Prisoner’s Dilemma paradigm: a
cooperation/competition task that requires to decide whether
to cooperate or defect. The game requires two players (or
FIGURE 1 | Topographic maps showing the pvalues of the theta/alpha
amplitudes during human–human (left) and human–machine (center)
conditions, as well as their difference (right). Taken and modified from
Kawasaki et al. (2013).
groups) and two alternative choices: cooperate or defect. When
both players decide to cooperate, they both gain small wins
(cooperation condition). If only one player cooperates and the
other retracts, the cooperator obtains a big loss and the defector
a big win. If both players betray, they have small losses (defeat
condition). The aim of the game is to gain the highest score.
Through this sharp paradigm the research group obtained
some important results: first, the defeat conditions elicited the
higher cortical activity in the theta and alpha frequency band.
This choice, in fact, can be related to major penalty and risky
conditions when compared to cooperation. Also, this effect was
mostly present over the frontal regions, in accordance with the
decisional request (Astolfi et al., 2009, 2010).
A successive study with the same paradigm (Astolfi et al.,
2011c) integrated such data with functional connectivity analyses
and found that the pattern of inter-brain connectivity in the
cooperation condition is denser than in the defect one. In
fact, as an individualist act, the defect choice could produce a
lower synchronization between brains. On the other hand, a
cooperative act could elicit weaker brain activity, but a denser
synchronization between the two brains.
Research coming from the Game Theory tradition is relevant
in that provides a standardized tool to directly compare
cooperation and competition, but also different studies each
other. Thus, it was possible to differentiate the two conditions,
associating cooperation with increased neural connectivity
between the two brains resonating each other.
Computer-Based Paradigms
A series of hyperscanning studies used computer-based paradigm
to assess cooperation and competition in experimental settings.
For example, Astolfi et al. (2014) asked participants to lift a
rolling ball up to a particular target region placed at the top of
the screen with a virtual bar. There was a joint condition, where
both subjects played together on the same task, a solo condition,
where both subjects were asked to complete the task individually,
and a PC condition which was identical to the joint one, but
subjects were told that they were playing against a computer.
The comparison between joint and PC, as well as between joint
and solo condition, revealed significant differences in terms of
inter-brain functional causal relations.
In another study by Sinha et al. (2016) the authors investigated
the effect of cooperative and competitive interactions with
a game similar to table tennis. The aim is to defeat the
competitor by striking a ball back and forth using a vertical
bar (competition condition) or to act as a team to defeat a
computer program (cooperative condition). Results showed that
the cooperative condition was characterized by significantly
higher synchronization as compared to competition.
Another computer-based task was proposed by Balconi and
Vanutelli (2016) within a competitive scenario where participants
coupled in dyads had to perform better than their opponent
in a sustained-attention task. During the game they were
continuously informed about their performance and, halfway
through the task, they received a general feedback reinforcing the
results obtained so far and the instruction for the second part
of the game. The analyses showed a systematic response within
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Balconi and Vanutelli Exploring Emotions with EEG Hyperscanning
the prefrontal regions (PFC) during competition. This effect was
mainly present after receiving a positive feedback assessing a
good performance and a winning situation. Also, considering
the enhanced PFC responsiveness, a specific lateralized pattern
was found in favor of the left hemisphere, compatible
with positive emotions, and approach-related motivations.
Accordingly, winners’ behavioral performance was improved in
terms of reduced reaction times (RTs).
With respect to card games, computer-based hyperscanning
studies offer more controlled, even if less ecological, paradigms
to study cooperation and competition. Also, they allow varying
the experimental conditions according to specific research aims.
In particular, it is possible to manipulate the cognitive scenarios
to induce different and correspondent neural synchronization
as in the last example (Balconi and Vanutelli, 2016) where
the affective state could modulate both neural activation and
Real-Life Applications
Finally, some promising real-life applications through
hyperscanning methods are reviewed: a first contribution
refers to flight simulations in couples of pilots and co-pilots
(Astolfi et al., 2011a, 2012; Toppi et al., 2016). Results showed
increased coherence in the alpha band over the parietal sites
during the most demanding phases of the simulation, which
can be attributed to higher cognitive load, as well as in the theta
band over the frontal sites, which is compatible with increased
resources engaged for information processing (Klimesch, 1999).
Hyperconnectivity patterns linking frontal and parietal areas of
the two participants emerged during the phases involving a close
interaction between the two pilots, that is takeoff and landing.
In particular, the strongest connections were located over the
frontal sites, and were directed from the co-pilot toward the pilot
(Figure 2).
Finally, an innovative application was proposed by Balconi
et al. (Venturella et al., 2017) within a neuromanagement
approach: the authors proposed a pilot study on the brain
dynamics occurring during a role-played employees’ evaluation
in couples of manager-collaborator. Preliminary results showed
greater delta and theta response to positive and constructive
inter-subjective exchange, as well as to the conversational
moments while sharing the company mission and aims.
Such examples are particularly relevant in that they can
be used to get neuroscience closer to real-life situations and
to improve specific work environment where the performance
depends on good cooperative/competitive dynamics. In fact, it
has been demonstrated that specific phases or topics during
dyadic work simulation can be identified by specific neural
markers which can be indicative of higher or lower cognitive
demand, emotional involvement and interactive skills.
Methodological and Statistical Caveats
However, how were these results obtained? Being a very
complex and innovative paradigm, a few methodological
and statistical considerations about hyperscanning should be
discussed. First, hyperscanning conventionally means both the
experimental paradigm including the simultaneous registration
of multiple brain activities, and/or the specific connectivity
analyses performed on resulting multiple data. In this second
case, the most used techniques are based on correlation or
coherence analyses (King-Casas et al., 2005; Funane et al.,
2011; Cui et al., 2012). Since the computation is made on
time series, the paradigm should include a high number of
frames for each experimental condition. This issue can be solved
FIGURE 2 | Significant connectivity elicited in the alpha (top) and theta (bottom) frequencies during takeoff (left), cruise (center), and landing (right) of one
exemplificative couple composed by the first officer (left) and the captain (right). Taken and modified from Toppi et al. (2016).
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Balconi and Vanutelli Exploring Emotions with EEG Hyperscanning
by (a) using EEG or other techniques which can provide a
high sampling rate: the higher, the better; (b) reducing the
experimental factors. For example, the number of brain regions
could be simplified by creating regions of interests (ROI), or
performing specific computations such as principal component
analysis (PCA). Finally, since couples are the cases for statistics
instead of single subjects, the number of participants should be
improved. Anyway, to solve these criticalities, before performing
the experiment a power analysis would be recommended.
As already discussed in previous sections, EEG-based
hyperscanning technique provides a valid and innovative
tool for exploring coupled responses and obtaining real-time
results in highly-ecological paradigms. Nonetheless, it seems
that most experimental paradigms did not explicitly taken into
account the affective component (Acquadro et al., 2016) in terms
of emotional contagion, sharing, and social exchange. Moreover,
the pioneeristic nature of these studies often led to adopt an
explorative approach and, accordingly, to vague and sparse
However, previous research on both animals and humans has
suggested that the psychophysiological connection between two
individuals is an intrinsic element of affective bonding (Coan
et al., 2006; McAssey et al., 2013). In fact, when we interact
with someone else, our brains and bodies can no longer be
considered independent, but must be viewed as part of a new
environment with the other person, in which we become coupled
through a continuous and mutual adaptation (Konvalinka and
Roepstorff, 2012). Besides neural synchronization, such dynamic
and interactive process has been also shown to result in
an alignment of behavior (Konvalinka et al., 2010), posture
(Shockley et al., 2003), autonomic systems such as respiration
(McFarland, 2000; Giuliano et al., 2015) and cardiac rhythms
(Konvalinka et al., 2011; Müller and Lindenberger, 2011).
For these reasons, it should be important that hyperscanning
paradigms would also consider the affective components related
to cooperative and competitive scenarios, and, possibly, to
combine other autonomic or behavioral measures (Niedenthal,
2007; Keysers et al., 2010).
From a clinical point of view such results are particularly
relevant. In fact, such inter-personal couplings generate social
bonds that could facilitate or obstruct future successful exchange.
For example, higher synchronization in heart rate variability is
associated with the length of romantic relationship (Anderson
et al., 2003). On the contrary, few developmental studies found
that mother–child synchrony decreases in particular conditions
(Feldman, 2007).
Thus, the adoption of clear theoretical approach and specific
research questions about the role of emotions in modifying
neural and bodily synchronization would help designing
hyperscanning protocols with different emotional conditions or
clinical groups to be compared. Accordingly, the methods could
be refined by including some subjective factors such as the
motivation in participating to the task, the effective involvement
in the role or the experimental condition, but also all those
psychological variables which could differentiate subjects or
couples by their personality, affective style, dominance, and so
on. To conclude, the need for experimental situations leading
to emotional engagement is still urgent in a way to enhance
the understanding of emotions within social interactions, and
improve the ecological validity of cooperative and competitive
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Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors declare that the research was
conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could
be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Copyright © 2017 Balconi and Vanutelli. This is an open-access article distributed
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Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience | 6September 2017 | Volume 11 | Article 86
... This paradigm has experimented with participants who mostly have face-to-face or side-by-side interaction with each other and their conjoined behavioral analysis is measured in terms of the tasks assigned. Decision making tasks (Jahng et al., 2017), certain verbal and visual cue tasks (Reindl et al., 2019), and emotion monitoring (Nummenmaa et al., 2014;Balconi and Vanutelli, 2017;Vanutelli et al., 2017;Santamaria et al., 2019), fall under this paradigm. These studies are done under similar yet divergent experimental setups each catering to its objectives. ...
... This paradigm has experimented with participants who mostly have face-to-face or side-by-side interaction with each other and their conjoined behavioral analysis is measured in terms of the tasks assigned. Decision making tasks (Jahng et al., 2017), certain verbal and visual cue task (Reindl et al., 2019), and emotion monitoring (Nummenmaa et al., 2014;Balconi and Vanutelli, 2017;Vanutelli et al., 2017;Santamaria et al., 2019) fall under this paradigm. ...
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The study of brain-to-brain synchrony has a burgeoning application in the brain-computer interface (BCI) research, offering valuable insights into the neural underpinnings of interacting human brains using numerous neural recording technologies. The area allows exploring the commonality of brain dynamics by evaluating the neural synchronization among a group of people performing a specified task. The growing number of publications on brain-to-brain synchrony inspired the authors to conduct a systematic review using the PRISMA protocol so that future researchers can get a comprehensive understanding of the paradigms, methodologies, translational algorithms, and challenges in the area of brain-to-brain synchrony research. This review has gone through a systematic search with a specified search string and selected some articles based on pre-specified eligibility criteria. The findings from the review revealed that most of the articles have followed the social psychology paradigm, while 36% of the selected studies have an application in cognitive neuroscience. The most applied approach to determine neural connectivity is a coherence measure utilizing phase-locking value (PLV) in the EEG studies, followed by wavelet transform coherence (WTC) in all of the fNIRS studies. While most of the experiments have control experiments as a part of their setup, a small number implemented algorithmic control, and only one study had interventional or a stimulus-induced control experiment to limit spurious synchronization. Hence, to the best of the authors' knowledge, this systematic review solely contributes to critically evaluating the scopes and technological advances of brain-to-brain synchrony to allow this discipline to produce more effective research outcomes in the remote future.
... Studies relating the brain activity of two or more individuals (a technique that is often referred to as "hyperscanning", for reviews see [35][36][37][38][39][40][41]) have found that the temporal dynamics of neural activity between people are more related during an interaction, a phenomenon called interpersonal neural synchrony (INS). Increased INS predicts dynamics of interaction [42], has been observed during face-to-face interactions [43][44][45] and is strongly associated with affiliation, cooperation, prosociality, and shared intention [46][47][48][49][50][51][52][53]. ...
... Further highlighting connections between INS and relationships, nasal administration of oxytocin-a hormone associated with feelings of interpersonal connection-increased INS during interaction [58]. A significant number of INS studies have focused on music [38]. Due to its sustained and hierarchical temporal structure, emotional salience, and sustained synchrony, musical interaction has been posited as an ideal paradigm for interpersonal neuroscience [59]. ...
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Music’s deeply interpersonal nature suggests that music-derived neuroplasticity relates to interpersonal temporal dynamics, or synchrony. Interpersonal neural synchrony (INS) has been found to correlate with increased behavioral synchrony during social interactions and may represent mechanisms that support them. As social interactions often do not have clearly delineated boundaries, and many start and stop intermittently, we hypothesize that a neural signature of INS may be detectable following an interaction. The present study aimed to investigate this hypothesis using a pre-post paradigm, measuring interbrain phase coherence before and after a cooperative dyadic musical interaction. Ten dyads underwent synchronous electroencephalographic (EEG) recording during silent, non-interactive periods before and after a musical interaction in the form of a cooperative tapping game. Significant post-interaction increases in delta band INS were found in the post-condition and were positively correlated with the duration of the preceding interaction. These findings suggest a mechanism by which social interaction may be efficiently continued after interruption and hold the potential for measuring neuroplastic adaption in longitudinal studies. These findings also support the idea that INS during social interaction represents active mechanisms for maintaining synchrony rather than mere parallel processing of stimuli and motor activity.
... 16 Today it is possible to measure brain activity of two interacting subjects simultaneously, a technique referred to as hyperscanning. [17][18][19][20][21][22][23] It is a well-established methodology for studying individuals during natural interactions 24 and has been used in various contexts over a number of years. It allows monitor of both emotional 25,26 and cognitive aspects [27][28][29] of social interaction. ...
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Significance: Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) enables measuring the brain activity of two subjects while they interact, i.e., the hyperscanning approach. Aim: In our exploratory study, we extended classical fNIRS hyperscanning by adding systemic physiological measures to obtain systemic physiology augmented fNIRS (SPA-fNIRS) hyperscanning while blocking and not blocking the visual communication between the subjects. This approach enables access brain-to-brain, brain-to-body, and body-to-body coupling between the subjects simultaneously. Approach: Twenty-four pairs of subjects participated in the experiment. The paradigm consisted of two subjects that sat in front of each other and had their eyes closed for 10 min, followed by a phase of 10 min where they made eye contact. Brain and body activity was measured continuously by SPA-fNIRS. Results: Our study shows that making eye contact for a prolonged time causes significant changes in brain-to-brain, brain-to-body, and body-to-body coupling, indicating that eye contact is followed by entrainment of the physiology between subjects. Subjects that knew each other generally showed a larger trend to change between the two conditions. Conclusions: The main point of this study is to introduce a new framework to investigate brain-to-brain, body-to-body, and brain-to-body coupling through a simple social experimental paradigm. The study revealed that eye contact leads to significant synchronization of spontaneous activity of the brain and body physiology. Our study is the first that employed the SPA-fNIRS approach and showed its usefulness to investigate complex interpersonal physiological changes.
... To overcome this limitation, cognitive applied neuroscience research started to apply neuroscientific tools in highly ecological contexts, such as the classrooms (Brockington et al., 2018). Also, in the two-person (teacher-student) educational neuroscience, the relatively newborn hyperscanning paradigm in neuroscience, that involves capturing the brain activity of two or more participants engaged in interactive activities at the same time (Babiloni and Astolfi, 2014;Balconi and Vanutelli, 2017;Crivelli and Balconi, 2017) may allow researchers to grasp the relation between the teacher and the learner (or even the class group) (Dikker et al., 2017;Pan et al., 2020). Hyperscanning can be defined as a method that allows for the performance of human behavioral experiments in which participants can interact with each other while brain neuroimaging data is acquired in synchrony with the behavioral interactions (Montague et al., 2002). ...
... Although not measured concurrently, synchrony in either ANS or brain signals has been found in emotional tasks, such as cooperative and competitive games (15)(16)(17)(18). Further, in a recent hyperscanning study, significant synchrony was observed in brain signal (measured by electroencephalography, EEG), cardiac and electrodermal signals within single subjects as well as between subjects of a dyad when they cooperated with each other (19). ...
Hyperscanning studies have begun to unravel the brain mechanisms underlying social interaction, indicating a functional role for interpersonal neural synchronization (INS), yet the mechanisms that drive INS are poorly understood. The current study, thus, addresses whether INS is functionally-distinct from synchrony in other systems – specifically the autonomic nervous system and motor behavior. To test this, we used concurrent functional near-infrared spectroscopy - electrocardiography recordings, while N = 34 mother-child and stranger-child dyads engaged in cooperative and competitive tasks. Only in the neural domain was a higher synchrony for mother-child compared to stranger-child dyads observed. Further, autonomic nervous system and neural synchrony were positively related during competition but not during cooperation. These results suggest that synchrony in different behavioral and biological systems may reflect distinct processes. Furthermore, they show that increased mother-child INS is unlikely to be explained solely by shared arousal and behavioral similarities, supporting recent theories that postulate that INS is higher in close relationships.
... In particular, interpersonal attunement will be assessed by using the hyperscanning approach, an experimental methodology that allows, based on simultaneous recording of behavioural and physiological responses from different agents involved in a joint task or a social exchange, the computation of interagents synchronization and inter-brain coupling metrics mirroring the level of social attunement [25,26]. The hyperscanning technique has already proved to be a reliable and valuable way to explore the efficiency and quality of interpersonal relations and complex social exchanges, both in laboratory and ecological settings such as workplace [26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33]. ...
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The digitalization process for organizations, which was inevitably accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, raises relevant challenges for Human Resource Management (HRM) because every technological implementation has a certain impact on human beings. Between many organizational HRM practices, recruitment and assessment interviews represent a significant moment where a social interaction provides the context for evaluating candidates’ skills. It is therefore relevant to investigate how different interaction frames and relational conditions affect such task, with a specific focus on the differences between face-to-face (FTF) and remote computer-mediated (RCM) interaction settings. In particular, the possibility of qualifying and quantifying the mechanisms shaping the efficiency of interaction in the recruiter-candidate dyad—i.e. interpersonal attunement—is potentially insightful. We here present a neuroscientific protocol aimed at elucidating the impact of FTF vs. RCM modalities on social dynamics within assessment interviews. Specifically, the hyperscanning approach, understood as the concurrent recording and integrated analysis of behavioural-physiological responses of interacting agents, will be used to evaluate recruiter-candidate dyads while they are involved in either FTF or RCM conditions. Specifically, the protocol has been designed to collect self-report, oculometric, autonomic (electrodermal activity, heart rate, heart rate variability), and neurophysiological (electroencephalography) metrics from both inter-agents to explore the perceived quality of the interaction, automatic visual-attentional patterns of inter-agents, as well as their cognitive workload and emotional engagement. The proposed protocol will provide a theoretical evidence-based framework to assess possible differences between FTF vs. RMC settings in complex social interactions, with a specific focus on job interviews.
... To reduce the likelihood of spurious hyperconnectivity results, the circular correlation (CCOR) metric was used (Burgess, 2013). Based on the recommended statistical approaches for hyperscanning data (Balconi and Vanutelli, 2017), the analysis focused on a subset of 12 temporoparietal electrodes in each hemisphere (left: 51, 52, 53, 54, 58, 59, 60, 61, 64, 65, 66, 67; right: 78, 79, 80, 85, 86, 87, 91, 92, 93, 96, 97, 98) rather than on all possible electrode pairs. The CCOR values within a dyad were calculated for each electrode pair in each frequency band, then For each frequency band, paired t-tests compared CCOR values to evaluate differences in interpersonal synchronization between the baseline and social interaction periods in the combined sample and within females and males with ASD separately. ...
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Difficulty engaging in reciprocal social interactions is a core characteristic of autism spectrum disorder. The mechanisms supporting effective dynamic real-time social exchanges are not yet well understood. This proof-of-concept hyperscanning electroencephalography study examined neural synchrony as the mechanism supporting interpersonal social interaction in 34 adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (50% female), age 10–16 years, paired with neurotypical confederates of similar age. The degree of brain-to-brain neural synchrony was quantified at temporo-parietal scalp locations as the circular correlation of oscillatory amplitudes in theta, alpha, and beta frequency bands while the participants engaged in a friendly conversation. In line with the hypotheses, interpersonal neural synchrony was significantly greater during the social interaction compared to the baseline. Lower levels of synchrony were associated with increased behavioral symptoms of social difficulties. With regard to sex differences, we found evidence for stronger interpersonal neural synchrony during conversation than baseline in females with autism, but not in male participants, for whom such condition differences did not reach statistical significance. This study established the feasibility of hyperscanning during real-time social interactions as an informative approach to examine social competence in autism, demonstrated that neural coordination of activity between the interacting brains may contribute to social behavior, and offered new insights into sex-related variability in social functioning in individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
... An analysis of wavelet coherence, also known as wavelet transform coherence (WTC), was conducted to assess the relationship between the EEG signals from both members of a dyad for each frequency band. WTC is an analysis method that measures the cross-correlation between two time series as a function of frequency and time (Balconi & Vanutelli, 2017;Cui et al., 2012;Torrence & Compo, 1998). It can be considered as the local correlation between two time series (Grinsted et al., 2004). ...
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Collaboration between two individuals is thought to be associated with the synchrony of two different brain activities. Indeed, prefrontal cortical activation and alpha frequency band modulation has been widely reported, but little is known about interbrain synchrony (IBS) changes occurring during social interaction such as collaboration or competition. In this study, we assess the dynamic of IBS variation in order to provide novel insights into the frequency band modulation underlying collaboration. To address this question, we used electroencephalography (EEG) to simultaneously record the brain activity of two individuals playing a computer‐based game facing four different conditions: collaboration, competition, single participation, and passive observation. The computer‐based game consisted of a fast button response task. Using data recorded in sensor space, we calculated an IBS value for each frequency band using both wavelet coherence transform and phase‐locking value and performed single‐subject analysis to compare each condition. We found significant IBS in frontal electrodes only present during collaboration associated with alpha frequency band modulation. In addition, we observed significant IBS in the theta frequency band for both collaboration and competition conditions, along with a significant single‐subject cortical activity. Competition is distinguishable through single‐subject activity in several regions and frequency bands of the brain. Performance is correlated with single‐subject frontal activation during collaboration in the alpha and beta frequency band.
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Currently, there is little understanding of how interoceptive attentiveness (IA) affects brain responses during synchronized cognitive or motor tasks. This pilot study explored the effect of explicit IA manipulation on hemodynamic correlates of simple cognitive tasks implying linguistic or motor synchronization. Eighteen healthy participants completed two linguistic and motor synchronization tasks during explicit IA and control conditions while oxygenated (O2Hb) and deoxygenated (HHb) hemoglobin variations were recorded by functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS). The findings suggested that the brain regions associated with sustained attention, such as the right prefrontal cortex (PFC), were more involved when an explicit focus on the breath was induced during the cognitive linguistic task requiring synchronization with a partner, as indicated by increased O2Hb. Interestingly, this effect was not significant for the motor task. In conclusion, for the first time, this pilot research found increased activity in neuroanatomical regions that promote sustained attention, attention reorientation, and synchronization when a joint task is carried out and the person is focusing on their physiological body reactions. Moreover, the results suggested that the benefits of conscious concentration on physiological interoceptive correlates while executing a task demanding synchronization, particularly verbal alignment, may be related to the right PFC.
The neurophysiological mechanisms underlying social behavior are still poorly understood. An increasing number of international studies uses hyperscanning for simultaneous recording of brain activation from several individuals during social interaction. Despite the outstanding school of Russian social psychology, the number of studies investigating the neurophysiological basis of social behavior in humans is still limited in the Russian literature. The goal of the present work was to review the hyperscanning methods, i.e., methods for simultaneous recording of physiological indices used to investigate inter-brain synchronization during social interactions. The paper discusses methods for recording and analysis of multi-subject data representing the changes in brain activity, existing experimental and naturalistic models, key results, as well as applied and fundamental aspects of the implementation of this technique in social psychology and neuroscience. Introduction of the methods which allow for a better understanding of physiological mechanisms of social interactions may significantly contribute to the development of innovative approaches to improving educational process, teamwork in various professional areas, social welfare, and psychosomatic health of people.
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In the present study, the social ranking perception in competition was explored. Brain response (alpha band oscillations, EEG; hemodynamic activity, O2Hb), as well as self-perception of social ranking, cognitive performance, and personality trait (Behavioral Activation System, BAS) were considered during a competitive joint-action. Subjects were required to develop a strategy to obtain a better outcome than a competitor (C) (in term of error rate, and response time, RT). A pre-feedback (without a specific feedback on the performance) and a post-feedback condition (which reinforced the improved performance) were provided. It was found that higher-BAS participants responded in greater measure to perceived higher cognitive performance (post-feedback condition), with increased left prefrontal activity, higher ranking perception, and a better real performance (reduced RTs). These results were explained in term of increased sense of self-efficacy and social position, probably based on higher-BAS sensitivity to reinforcing conditions. In addition, the hemispheric effect in favor of the left side characterized the competitive behavior, showing an imbalance for high-BAS in comparison to low-BAS in the case of a rewarding (post-feedback) context. Therefore, the present results confirmed the significance of BAS in modulating brain responsiveness, self-perceived social position, and real performance during an interpersonal competitive action which is considered highly relevant for social status.
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Humans are fundamentally social and tend to create emergent organizations when interacting with each other; from dyads to families, small groups, large groups, societies, and civilizations. The study of the neuronal substrate of human social behavior is currently gaining momentum in the young field of social neuroscience. Hyperscanning is a neuroimaging technique by which we can study two or more brains simultaneously while participants interact with each other. The aim of this article is to discuss several factors that we deem important in designing hyperscanning experiments. We first review hyperscanning studies performed by means of electroencephalography (EEG) that have been relying on a continuous interaction paradigm. Then, we provide arguments for favoring ecological paradigms, for studying the emotional component of social interactions and for performing longitudinal studies, the last two aspects being largely neglected so far in the hyperscanning literature despite their paramount importance in social sciences. Based on these premises, we argue that music performance is a suitable experimental setting for hyperscanning and that for such studies EEG is an appropriate choice as neuroimaging modality.
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The coordinated interactions between individuals are fundamental for the success of the activities in some professional categories. We reported on brain-to-brain cooperative interactions between civil pilots during a simulated flight. We demonstrated for the first time how the combination of neuroelectrical hyperscanning and intersubject connectivity could provide indicators sensitive to the humans' degree of synchronization under a highly demanding task performed in an ecological environment. Our results showed how intersubject connectivity was able to i) characterize the degree of cooperation between pilots in different phases of the flight, and ii) to highlight the role of specific brain macro areas in cooperative behavior. During the most cooperative flight phases pilots showed, in fact, dense patterns of interbrain connectivity, mainly linking frontal and parietal brain areas. On the contrary, the amount of interbrain connections went close to zero in the non-cooperative phase. The reliability of the interbrain connectivity patterns was verified by means of a baseline condition represented by formal couples, i.e. pilots paired offline for the connectivity analysis but not simultaneously recorded during the flight. Interbrain density was, in fact, significantly higher in real couples with respect to formal couples in the cooperative flight phases. All the achieved results demonstrated how the description of brain networks at the basis of cooperation could effectively benefit from a hyperscanning approach. Interbrain connectivity was, in fact, more informative in the investigation of cooperative behavior with respect to established EEG signal processing methodologies applied at a single subject level.
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Interpersonal interaction can be classified into two types: concurrent and turn-based interaction, requiring synchronized body-movement and complementary behaviors across persons, respectively. To examine the neural mechanism of turn-based interaction, we simultaneously measured paired participants activations in their bilateral inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and the bilateral inferior parietal lobule (IPL) in a turn-taking game using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). Pairs of participants were assigned to either one of two roles (game builder and the partner) in the game. The builder’s task was to make a copy of a target disk-pattern by placing disks on a monitor, while the partner's task was to aid the builder in his/her goal (cooperation condition) or to obstruct it (competition condition). The builder always took the initial move and the partner followed. The NIRS data demonstrated an interaction of role (builder vs. partner) by task-type (cooperation vs. competition) in the right IFG. The builder in the cooperation condition showed higher activation than the cooperator, but the same builder in the competition condition showed lower activation than in the cooperation condition. The activations in the competitor-builder pairs showed positive correlation between their right IFG, but the activations in the cooperator-builder pairs did not. These results suggest that the builder’s activation in the right IFG is reduced/increased in the context of interacting with a cooperative/competitive partner. Also, the competitor may actively trace the builder's disk manipulation, leading to deeper mind-set synchronization in the competition condition, while the cooperator may passively follow the builder's move, leading to shallower mind-set synchronization in the cooperation condition. Free access:
Neuromanagement deals with neuroscience methodological approaches to the management. A management construct is leadership, but objective psychophysiological data in support of it are still missing. The present pilot study aimed to apply the hyperscanning paradigm during a role-played employees' evaluation. Our purpose was to identify lexical and neuro/psychophysiological markers of leader-employee interactions. The sample consisted in paired manager-collaborator couples. Managers were required to use two different communication styles: authoritative vs. cooperative. A conversational analysis permitted to identify main topics to interpret data. Results showed that the interview was more arousing for the employee than the manager. Greater Delta and Theta EEG bands could denote positive valence of personal interactions and company mission topics. Autonomic measures (Skin Conductance Response, SCR and Heart Rate, HR) showed important information related to different leadership style. Results highlight the importance of applying neurosciences to organizational contexts exploring processes related to manager-employee dynamics and communicative style.
The neural activities triggered by viewing other's in pain can be modulated by various factors based on previous studies. How the instructions of cooperation and competition influence these activities has not been explored yet. In the current study, participants were instructed to play a game cooperatively or competitively with a confederate. During the game, pictures showing an anonymous' hand or foot in painful or non-painful situations were randomly presented in an odd-ball style. The Event-related Potentials (ERPs) when the participants passively observed these pictures under different instructions were compared. We found a significant interaction of Instruction × Picture on P3 component where only under the competitive instruction the painful pictures elicited significantly larger amplitudes than the non-painful pictures but not under the cooperative instruction. This result indicates that the participants were more responsive to other's pain in a competitive context than in a cooperative context.
Due to its fast temporal evolution and its representation and integration among complex and widespread neural networks, the emotion perception process should preferably be examined by means of multimethodological approach. Indeed the indubitable vantage of acquiring both the autonomic (arousal-related) and the central (cortical-related) activities stands in the possibility to better elucidate the reciprocal interplay of the two compartments. In the present study EEG (frequency band analysis), systemic SCR and heart rate (HR) were all recorded simultaneously with hemodynamic (NIRS, Near-Infrared Spectroscopy) measurements as potential biological markers of emotions, related to both central and peripheral systems. These multiple measures were then related to the self-report correlates, that is the subjective appraisal in term of valence (positive vs. negative) and arousal (high vs. low) by using SAM rating. Twenty subjects were submitted to emotional cues processing (IAPS) when fNIRS, frequency bands (alpha, beta, delta, theta), SCR and HR were recorded. As shown by O2Hb increasing within the right hemisphere, the contribution of prefrontal cortex was elucidated, by pointing out a relevant lateralization effect (more right-PFC activity) induced by the specific valence (negative) of the emotional patterns. Secondly, EEG activity (mainly low-frequency theta and delta bands) was intrinsically associated with the cortical hemodynamic responsiveness to the negative emotional patterns, within the right side. Finally SCR increased mainly in response to negative patterns, and the autonomic behavior was related to explicit (SAM) and cortical (NIRS; EEG) activity. The intrinsic relationships between these three different levels are discussed. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The aim of the present study is to investigate the neurophysiological basis of the cognitive functions underlying the execution of joint actions, by means of the recent technique called hyperscanning. Neuroelectrical hyperscanning is based on the simultaneous recording of brain activity from multiple subjects and includes the analysis of the functional relation between the brain activity of all the interacting individuals. We recorded simultaneous high density electroencephalography (hdEEG) from 16 pairs of subjects involved in a computerized joint action paradigm, with controlled levels of cooperation. Results of cortical connectivity analysis returned significant differences, in terms of inter-brain functional causal links, between the condition of cooperative joint action and a condition in which the subjects were told they were interacting with a PC, while actually interacting with another human subject. Such differences, described by selected brain connectivity indices, point toward an integration between the two subjects' brain activity in the cooperative condition, with respect to control conditions.