The coordination dynamics of social neuromarkers

Emmanuelle Tognoli, J.A. Scott Kelso

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    37 Citations (Scopus)


    Social behavior is a complex integrative function that entails many aspects of the brain’s sensory, cognitive, emotional and movement capacities. Its neural processes are seldom simultaneous but occur according to precise spatiotemporal choreographies, manifested by the coordination of their oscillations within and between brains. Methods with good temporal resolution can help to identify so-called “neuromarkers” of social function and aid in disentangling the dynamical architecture of social brains. In our ongoing research, we have used dual-electroencephalography (EEG) to study neuromarker dynamics during synchronic interactions in which pairs of subjects coordinate behavior spontaneously and intentionally (social coordination) and during diachronic transactions that require subjects to perceive or behave in turn (action observation, delayed imitation). In this paper, after outlining our dynamical approach to the neurophysiological basis of social behavior, we examine commonalities and differences in the neuromarkers that are recruited for both kinds of tasks. We find the neuromarker landscape to be task-specific: synchronic paradigms of social coordination reveal medial mu, alpha and the phi complex as contributing neuromarkers. Diachronic tasks recruit alpha as well, in addition to lateral mu rhythms and the newly discovered nu and kappa rhythms whose functional significance is still unclear. Social coordination, observation, and delayed imitation share commonality of context: in each of our experiments, subjects exchanged information through visual perception and moved in similar ways. Nonetheless, there was little overlap between their neuromarkers, a result that hints strongly of task-specific neural mechanisms for social behavior. The only neuromarker that transcended both synchronic and diachronic social behaviors was the ubiquitous alpha rhythm, which appears to be a key signature of visually-mediated social behaviors. The present paper is both an entry point and a challenge: much work remains to determine the nature and scope of recruitment of other neuromarkers, and to create theoretical models of their within- and between-brain dynamics during social interaction.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 20 Oct 2015


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