Hyperscanning studies have begun to unravel the brain mechanisms underlying social interaction, indicating a functional role for interpersonal neural synchronization (INS), yet the mechanisms that drive INS are poorly understood. While interpersonal synchrony is considered a multimodal phenomenon, it is not clear how different biological and behavioral synchrony markers are related to each other. The current study, thus, addresses whether INS is functionally-distinct from synchrony in other systems – specifically the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and motor behavior. To test this, we used a novel methodological approach, based on concurrent functional near-infrared spectroscopy-electrocardiography, recorded while N = 34 mother-child and stranger-child dyads (child mean age 14 years) engaged in cooperative or competitive tasks. Results showed a marked differentiation between neural, ANS and behavioral synchrony. Importantly, only in the neural domain was higher synchrony for mother-child compared to stranger-child dyads observed. Further, ANS and neural synchrony were positively related during competition but not during cooperation. These results suggest that synchrony in different behavioral and biological systems may reflect distinct processes. Mother-child INS may arise due to neural processes related to social affiliation, which go beyond shared arousal and similarities in behavior.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience