NIRS-Based Hyperscanning Reveals Inter-brain Neural Synchronization during Cooperative Jenga Game with Face-to-Face Communication

Front Hum Neurosci. 2016 Mar 8;10:82. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00082. eCollection 2016.


Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is an increasingly popular technology for studying social cognition. In particular, fNIRS permits simultaneous measurement of hemodynamic activity in two or more individuals interacting in a naturalistic setting. Here, we used fNIRS hyperscanning to study social cognition and communication in human dyads engaged in cooperative and obstructive interaction while they played the game of Jenga™. Novel methods were developed to identify synchronized channels for each dyad and a structural node-based spatial registration approach was utilized for inter-dyad analyses. Strong inter-brain neural synchrony (INS) was observed in the posterior region of the right middle and superior frontal gyrus, in particular Brodmann area 8 (BA8), during cooperative and obstructive interaction. This synchrony was not observed during the parallel game play condition and the dialog section, suggesting that BA8 was involved in goal-oriented social interaction such as complex interactive movements and social decision-making. INS was also observed in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), in particular Brodmann 9, during cooperative interaction only. These additional findings suggest that BA9 may be particularly engaged when theory-of-mind (ToM) is required for cooperative social interaction. The new methods described here have the potential to significantly extend fNIRS applications to social cognitive research.

Keywords: cooperation; fNIRS; functional near-infrared spectroscopy; hyperscanning; inter-brain neural synchronization (INS); obstructive interaction.