The present study aimed to step into two-person neuroscience by investigating the hemodynamic correlates of between-brain connectivity involved in imitation and its dependency on pacing stimuli. To test this approach, we used wireless functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to record simultaneously during imitation performance of a paced finger-tapping task (PFT) in two subjects over premotor cortices (PMC). During the imitation (IM) condition, a model and an imitator were recorded while tapping in synchrony with auditory stimuli separated by a constant interval (stimulus-paced mode, St-P), followed by tapping without the pacing stimulus (self-paced mode, Se-P). During the control (CO) condition, each subject (single 1 and 2) performed the PFT task with the same pacing mode pattern, but alone without reference to each other. Using wavelet transform coherence (WTC) analysis evaluating functional connectivity between brains, we found (1) that IM revealed a larger coherence increase between the model and the imitator as compared to the CO condition. (2) Within the IM condition, a larger coherence increase was found during Se-P as compared to St-P mode. Using Granger-causality (G-causality) analysis evaluating effective connectivity between brains, we found (3) that IM revealed larger G-causality as compared to the CO condition and (4) that within the IM condition, the signal of the model G-caused that of the imitator to a greater extent as compared to vice versa. Our findings designate fNIRS as suitable tool for monitoring between-brain connectivity during dynamic interactions between two subjects and that those measurements might thereby provide insight into activation patterns not detectable using typical single-person experiments. Overall, the results of the present study demonstrate the potential of simultaneously assessing brain hemodynamics in interacting subjects in several research areas where social interactions are involved.
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