(ORDO NEWS) — Over the past two and a half years, it has been easy to feel disconnected from the world, despite spending many hours on Zoom quizzes and online games with friends.
But it turns out that even when we are physically alone, our brains can synchronize with the minds of others we play with. better than expected.
A new study has shown that people who play an online game together can achieve brainwave synchronization even when they are in complete isolation.
This type of synchronization is usually associated with social interaction and is important for a healthy society because it is associated with better empathy and cooperation.
But this new study shows that it doesn’t just happen when we’re face to face.
“We were able to show that interbrain phase synchronization can occur without the presence of another person,” says one of the team members, cognitive researcher Valtteri Wikström. from the University of Helsinki in Finland.
“This opens up an opportunity to explore the role of this social brain mechanism in online interaction. .”
In the study, 42 Finnish students were paired up and asked to play a specially designed game in which they drove a racing car together on four different tracks.
One controlled the speed and the other controlled the direction, and after the race was over, the participants changed roles, playing each track twice.
the two members were separated into two separate soundproof rooms so they had no physical interaction.
They also did not communicate with each other outside of in-game activities, so the headset was not used.
Simultaneously, both students were connected to EEG ( electroencephalographic ) scanners so that the researchers could monitor their brain activity in real time with electrical signals and see how well they matched each other’s activity.
The team found that players actually achieved brainwave synchronization through alpha, beta, and gamma waves.
To ensure the effect was real, the team also created “false pairs” from the data – participants with the same course time but who didn’t actually play together.
This meant that the researchers could also show that brain synchronization didn’t just occur for everyone who performed the same activities, but was unique to those who played together.
The connection with the brain was also associated with success in the game.
The more synchronized the gamma rays of the participants, the higher the short-term performance in the game. And the higher their alpha synchrony, the better they performed overall.
During the gaming session, the brain became less synchronized, but then they become even more synchronized during the second session compared to the first.
We still have a very good understanding of how the brain interacts when it communicates with other minds on the Internet, so we have a lot to learn about what’s going on here.
But we already know that games help our brains train some vital decision-making skills. And now it’s promising to know that in the future there may be opportunities to use games to make us all feel a little more in sync and maybe more empathetic to each other.
“This study shows that brain-to-brain synchronization also occurs during online co-op play and can be reliably measured,” Wikström says.
“Developing aspects in games that lead to increased synchronization and empathy can have a positive impact even outside of games.”
The next step is to find a way to measure the quality of these online interactions, as well as to figure out which aspects of teamwork in an online game best contribute to the type of connection we get from social interaction.
This is important, especially in a world where more and more of our learning and communication inevitably takes place online, and yet we still do not fully understand the implications of this for the social development of the brain.
“If we can create interactive digital experiences that activate the fundamental mechanisms of empathy, it could lead to improved social relationships, well-being and online performance,” says cognitive neuroscientist Katri Sarrikivi, who led the research project.
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