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

Suzanne Dikker, Lu Wan, Ido Davidesco, Lisa Kaggen, Matthias Oostrik, James McClintock, Jess Rowland, Georgios Michalareas, Jay Van Bavel, Mingzhou Ding, David Poeppel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The human brain has evolved for group living []. 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" []. Recently, various studies have begun to approach this question by comparing brain responses of multiple individuals during a variety of (semi-naturalistic) tasks []. These experiments reveal how stimulus properties [], individual differences [], and contextual factors [] 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 (A-1C; , 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. Dikker, Wan, et al. follow a group of high school seniors for a semester and record their brain activity during their regular biology class. They find that students' brainwaves are more in sync with each other when they are more engaged during class. Brain-to-brain synchrony is also reflective of how much students like the teacher and each other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCurrent Biology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Oct 20 2016

Fingerprint

Brain
brain
Students
students
neurophysiology
Neurosciences
Brain Waves
high school students
electroencephalography
high schools
Social Behavior
Interpersonal Relations
Electroencephalography
teachers
social behavior
Individuality
Biological Sciences
methodology

Keywords

  • Brain synchrony
  • Classroom engagement
  • Educational neuroscience
  • Group affinity
  • Hyper-scanning
  • Oscillations
  • Portable EEG
  • Real-world experimentation
  • Social neuroscience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Cite this

Brain-to-Brain Synchrony Tracks Real-World Dynamic Group Interactions in the Classroom. / Dikker, Suzanne; Wan, Lu; Davidesco, Ido; Kaggen, Lisa; Oostrik, Matthias; McClintock, James; Rowland, Jess; Michalareas, Georgios; Van Bavel, Jay; Ding, Mingzhou; Poeppel, David.

In: Current Biology, 20.10.2016.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Dikker, S, Wan, L, Davidesco, I, Kaggen, L, Oostrik, M, McClintock, J, Rowland, J, Michalareas, G, Van Bavel, J, Ding, M & Poeppel, D 2016, 'Brain-to-Brain Synchrony Tracks Real-World Dynamic Group Interactions in the Classroom', Current Biology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.002
Dikker, Suzanne ; Wan, Lu ; Davidesco, Ido ; Kaggen, Lisa ; Oostrik, Matthias ; McClintock, James ; Rowland, Jess ; Michalareas, Georgios ; Van Bavel, Jay ; Ding, Mingzhou ; Poeppel, David. / Brain-to-Brain Synchrony Tracks Real-World Dynamic Group Interactions in the Classroom. In: Current Biology. 2016.
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