Quantification of inter-brain coupling: A review of current methods used in haemodynamic and electrophysiological hyperscanning studies

Neuroimage. 2023 Oct 15:280:120354. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2023.120354. Epub 2023 Sep 4.


Hyperscanning is a form of neuroimaging experiment where the brains of two or more participants are imaged simultaneously whilst they interact. Within the domain of social neuroscience, hyperscanning is increasingly used to measure inter-brain coupling (IBC) and explore how brain responses change in tandem during social interaction. In addition to cognitive research, some have suggested that quantification of the interplay between interacting participants can be used as a biomarker for a variety of cognitive mechanisms aswell as to investigate mental health and developmental conditions including schizophrenia, social anxiety and autism. However, many different methods have been used to quantify brain coupling and this can lead to questions about comparability across studies and reduce research reproducibility. Here, we review methods for quantifying IBC, and suggest some ways moving forward. Following the PRISMA guidelines, we reviewed 215 hyperscanning studies, across four different brain imaging modalities: functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), functional magnetic resonance (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG). Overall, the review identified a total of 27 different methods used to compute IBC. The most common hyperscanning modality is fNIRS, used by 119 studies, 89 of which adopted wavelet coherence. Based on the results of this literature survey, we first report summary statistics of the hyperscanning field, followed by a brief overview of each signal that is obtained from each neuroimaging modality used in hyperscanning. We then discuss the rationale, assumptions and suitability of each method to different modalities which can be used to investigate IBC. Finally, we discuss issues surrounding the interpretation of each method.

Keywords: Dyadic neuroscience; Hyperscanning; Interbrain interaction; Interbrain synchrony; Neuroimaging; Social neuroscience; Two person neuroscience.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain* / diagnostic imaging
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Thalamus*