Interpersonal brain synchronization in the right temporo-parietal junction during face-to-face economic exchange

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2016 Jan;11(1):23-32. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsv092. Epub 2015 Jul 25.


In daily life, interpersonal interactions are influenced by uncertainty about other people's intentions. Face-to-face (FF) interaction reduces such uncertainty by providing external visible cues such as facial expression or body gestures and facilitates shared intentionality to promote belief of cooperative decisions and actual cooperative behaviors in interaction. However, so far little is known about interpersonal brain synchronization between two people engaged in naturally occurring FF interactions. In this study, we combined an adapted ultimatum game with functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) hyperscanning to investigate how FF interaction impacts interpersonal brain synchronization during economic exchange. Pairs of strangers interacted repeatedly either FF or face-blocked (FB), while their activation was simultaneously measured in the right temporo-parietal junction (rTPJ) and the control region, right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC). Behaviorally, FF interactions increased shared intentionality between strangers, leading more positive belief of cooperative decisions and more actual gains in the game. FNIRS results indicated increased interpersonal brain synchronizations during FF interactions in rTPJ (but not in rDLPFC) with greater shared intentionality between partners. These results highlighted the importance of rTPJ in collaborative social interactions during FF economic exchange and warrant future research that combines FF interactions with fNIRS hyperscanning to study social brain disorders such as autism.

Keywords: fNIRS hyperscanning; face-to-face; intention; social interaction; temporo-parietal junction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Cortical Synchronization / physiology*
  • Culture
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology*
  • Economics, Behavioral*
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Functional Neuroimaging*
  • Gestures
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Young Adult