2012-10-01Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00266
Content-specific coordination of listeners' to speakers' EEG during communication
Cognitive neuroscience has recently begun to extend its focus from the isolated individual mind to two or more individuals coordinating with each other. In this study we uncover a coordination of neural activity between the ongoing electroencephalogram (EEG) of two people—a person speaking and a person listening. The EEG of one set of twelve participants (“speakers”) was recorded while they were narrating short stories. The EEG of another set of twelve participants (“listeners”) was recorded while watching audiovisual recordings of these stories. Specifically, listeners watched the superimposed videos of two speakers simultaneously and were instructed to attend either to one or the other speaker. This allowed us to isolate neural coordination due to processing the communicated content from the effects of sensory input. We find several neural signatures of communication: First, the EEG is more similar among listeners attending to the same speaker than among listeners attending to different speakers, indicating that listeners' EEG reflects content-specific information. Secondly, listeners' EEG activity correlates with the attended speakers' EEG, peaking at a time delay of about 12.5 s. This correlation takes place not only between homologous, but also between non-homologous brain areas in speakers and listeners. A semantic analysis of the stories suggests that listeners coordinate with speakers at the level of complex semantic representations, so-called “situation models”. With this study we link a coordination of neural activity between individuals directly to verbally communicated information.
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