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Our brains synchronize during a conversation
May 30, 2018

Core Spirit member since Dec 24, 2020
Reading time 3 min.

The rhythms of brainwaves between two individuals getting involved in a dialogue start to match each other. This is the conclusion of a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, directed by the Basque research center BCBL. According to scientists, this interbrain synchrony might be an integral component in understanding language and social communication.

Until today, most conventional research had suggested the hypothesis that the brain “synchronizes” based on what’s discovered, and correspondingly corrects its rhythms to auditory stimulation.

Now, the specialists from this Donostia-based research center have gone a step further and concurrently analysed the intricate neuronal action of two strangers that hold a dialogue for the first time.

The group, headed by Alejandro Pérez, Manuel Carreiras and Jon Andoni Duñabeitia, has confirmed by documenting cerebral electric activity- the neuronal activity of 2 individuals in a process of communication “synchronize” in order to allow for a “connection” involving both subjects.

“It involves interbrain communion that goes beyond language itself and may constitute a key factor in interpersonal relations and the understanding of language,” Jon Andoni Duñabeitia describes.

Thus, the rhythms of the brainwaves corresponding to the speaker and the listener adapt in line with the physiological properties of the sound of the verbal messages expressed in a dialogue. This generates a link between the two brains, which start to work collectively towards a common purpose: communication.

“The brains of the two people are brought together thanks to language, and communication creates links between people that go far beyond what we can perceive from the outside,” added the researcher from the Basque research center. “We can find out if two people are having a conversation solely by analysing their brain waves.”

For the aims of the research, the BCBL researchers utilized 15 dyads of individuals of the exact same gender, absolute strangers to one another, separated by a folding display. This assured the link generated was thanks to this communication established.

Following a script, the dyads held a general dialog and took turns playing the roles of speaker and listener.

Through electroencephalography (EEG) – a noninvasive procedure that analyses electric activity in the brain – the scientists measured the motion of the brainwaves concurrently and verified their oscillations happened at precisely the exact same moment.

“To be able to know if two people are talking between themselves, and even what they are talking about, based solely on their brain activity is something truly marvellous. Now we can explore new applications, which are highly useful in special communicative contexts, such as the case of people who have difficulties with communication,” Duñabeitia pointed out.

In the long run, the understanding of the interaction involving two brains would permit for the understanding and evaluation of very complicated aspects of the fields of psychology, sociology, psychiatry, or education, using the neural images within an ecological or real-world context.

“Demonstrating the existence of neural synchrony between two people involved in a conversation has only been the first step,” confirmed Alejandro Pérez. “There are many unanswered questions and challenges left to resolve.”

Pérez additionally asserts the technical potential of this study is huge. “Problems with communication occur every day. We are planning to get the most out of this discovery of interbrain synchronization with the goal of improving communication,” he reasoned.

The next step for the researchers are to understand, by employing the identical technique and pair dynamic, if the brains of two individuals “synchronize” in precisely the exact same manner once the conversation occurs in their non-native language.

Journal Reference:

  1. Alejandro Pérez, Manuel Carreiras, Jon Andoni Duñabeitia. Brain-to-brain entrainment: EEG interbrain synchronization while speaking and listening.
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