Degeneracy and Complexity in Neuro-Behavioral Correlates of Team Coordination

Silke Dodel, Emmanuelle Tognoli, J A Scott Kelso

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12 Citations (Scopus)
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Team coordination—members of a group acting together rather than performing specific actions individually—is essential for success in many real-world tasks such as military missions, sports, workplace, or school interactions. However, team coordination is highly variable, which is one reason why its underlying neural processes are largely unknown. Here we used dual electroencephalography (EEG) in dyads to study the neurobehavioral dynamics of team coordination in an ecologically valid task that places intensive demands on joint performance. We present a novel conceptual framework to interpret neurobehavioral variability in terms of degeneracy, a fundamental property of complex biological systems said to enhance flexibility and robustness. We characterize degeneracy conceptually in terms of a manifold representing the geometric locus of the dynamics in the high dimensional state-space of neurobehavioral signals. The geometry and dimensionality of the manifold are determined by task constraints and team coordination requirements which restrict the manifold to trajectories that are conducive to successful task performance. Our results indicate that team coordination is associated with dimensionality reduction of the manifold as evident in increased inter-brain phase coherence of beta and gamma rhythms during critical phases of task performance where subjects exchange information. Team coordination was also found to affect the shape of the manifold manifested as a symmetry breaking of centro-parietal wavelet power patterns across subjects in trials with high team coordination. These results open a conceptual and empirical path to identifying the mechanisms underlying team performance in complex tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number328
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Early online date10 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished online - 10 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Daniel Afergan, Jospeh Coyne, Gregory Gibson, and Roy Stripling participated in task design. Daniel Afergan and Joseph Coyne contributed to task implementation and Attila Kovacs and Benjamin Suutari contributed to neurobehavioral data collection. Funding. Support for this work was received from the US Office of Naval Research (N00014-09-1-0527), the US National Institute of Mental Health (MH080838), and the US National Science Foundation (BCS0826897). ET was also supported by the US National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (EB-025819).

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2020 Dodel, Tognoli and Kelso.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • coherence
  • degeneracy
  • hyperscanning
  • manifold
  • social coordination
  • symmetry breaking
  • team work
  • wavelets


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