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Content-specific coordination of listeners' to speakers' EEG during communication

Kuhlen, A. K., Allefeld, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-1037-2735 & Haynes, J-D. (2012). Content-specific coordination of listeners' to speakers' EEG during communication. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6(SEPTEM), article number 266. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00266


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.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2012 Kuhlen, Allefeld and Haynes. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.
Publisher Keywords: communication; spoken language; interpersonal coordination; dual EEG; social interaction; situation model; language production; language comprehension
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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