Researchers Demonstrate Brainwave Synchronization Without Physical Presence

Communication Brain Sync Concept

Scientists showed that interacting brains sync without physical presence.

Researchers demonstrated that the brains of people playing an online game together were synchronized without physical presence.

Online gaming and other types of online social interaction have become increasingly popular during the COVID pandemic. This trend is likely to continue due to increased remote working and investments in social technology.

Previous research has shown that people’s brains activate in a similar and simultaneous way during social interaction. Such inter-brain neural synchronization has been associated with empathy and cooperation in face-to-face situations. However, its role in online, remote interaction has remained unknown.

A new study conducted at the University of Helsinki investigated brainwave synchronization while pairs of subjects played a game in which they controlled a racing car together. The subjects were physically separated into two soundproof rooms. The researchers investigated the connection of synchronization with interaction and performance in the game. 

Based on the results, inter-brain synchronization occurs during cooperative online gaming. Furthermore, increased synchrony in the alpha and gamma frequency bands is connected with better performance. The connection between performance and gamma-synchronization could be observed continuously over time.

“We were able to show that inter-brain phase synchronization can occur without the presence of the other person. This opens up a possibility to investigate the role of this social brain mechanism in online interaction,” says Valtteri Wikström, a doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki.

Toward better online interaction

Our social brain has developed in face-to-face communication. Increased screen time has caused concern in many people, especially among parents, teachers, and legislators.

“If we can build interactive digital experiences which activate fundamental mechanisms of empathy, it can lead to better social relationships, well-being, and productivity online,” says Project Manager Katri Saarikivi.

Wikström suggests that measures of physiological synchrony and cooperative performance might be used to assess the quality of social interaction. Finding out which features of the interfaces enhance understanding and connectedness can drive the development in a positive direction.

“This study shows that inter-brain synchronization happens also during cooperative online gaming, and that it can be reliably measured. Developing aspects in games that lead to increased synchronization and empathy can have a positive impact even outside of gaming,” Wikström adds.

Reference: “Inter-brain synchronization occurs without physical co-presence during cooperative online gaming” by Valtteri Wikström, Katri Saarikivi, Mari Falcon, Tommi Makkonen, Silja Martikainen, Vesa Putkinen, Benjamin Ultan Cowley and Mari Tervaniemi, 20 July 2022, Neuropsychologia.
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2022.108316


View Comments

  • The idea is that the brain is revealing what it is processing... not that the brains are actually in sync from a distance - not anymore than clocks being generally syncronized from one house to another - but because they're linked directly, but because they're set by those who agree on the time and that agreement is based upon physical processes which people agree is happening because those things happen without our permission. The brain is just doing the same thing... its little hand and big hand are pointing in the directions as the other ones because they're responding to the same environment. Yes, that creates a "connection" in a sense. But that thread is easy to find. Yes, one perceiver is able to envision what it is likely happening with the other perceiver... because the imagination runs simulations, and programs are simulations, so simulating a simulation is fine. There becomes a lengthy regress and then you realize that it's either all one simulation or it's all reality. Either way, it's within the same framework, and the brain is built within that framework, which makes the brains within that framework connected by default. So, everything is orientated towards syncronization - even those things which appear at first to contradict the system, they don't actually. They're doing -their- part. It's the observation and the questioning that allows the system to be perceived and tested that creates the supposed anomaly of "opinion" at any rate. It's not something mind-blowing or that needs to be proven. At any given moment, a bunch of people are peeing right now. Maybe they're psychic...

  • Replace one of the "but"s above with a "not". It will make one of those statements make more sense, and the others not so much. Enjoy.

  • To simplify. The brains are NOT snycronized, but, it's simply two brains, trying via a game, trying to accomplish the same thing, at the same moment. A seriously flawed study, given way to much weight, due to relatively simply overlooked flaws. In other words, simply BS!!!

  • This study does not prove any synchronization. Poor science without a control group as well, and needs a better question to determine synchronization. Plus an activity that is not a shared with further distance between them. If these chosen people spend any time together in activities other than this, this in itself would help determine whether one would be synchronized or not.

  • Hedgepeth, sounds like your spot on in your observation of their testing set up.
    Perhaps, no audio or video cues. Just a headset and a blank sheet of paper. If the participants can write the same sentence or draw the same picture we may be into something.

  • Tarzan, have you noticed how many of these popular article summaries of scientific findings desperately grasp at trying to persuade people of mystical metaphysical mechanisims?

  • Tarzan, nicely done my friend.

    Im not into too many patterns, but you gotta love the way us creatures are created to create in and of the same image their original creator

    That could sound religious,or mathmatical, or...

    Sometimes the truth is lost in the words that are said, but it's also about the ears that hear em!

    Dug your post fur real...

University of Helsinki

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