Summary: Face-to-face interactions elicited nine significant interbrain connections between the frontal and temporal areas of the brain, while remote communications elicited only one.
Source: Montreal university
Video conferencing services are proliferating – there’s Zoom, Teams, Messenger, FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp – and since the COVID-19 pandemic they’ve been used more than ever.
While the shift to technology-enhanced communication has permeated every facet of social life over the past three years, there is little scientific literature on its impact on the social brain.
Could technology-mediated interactions have neurobiological consequences that interfere with the development of social and cognitive abilities?
An international research team, including Guillaume Dumas, professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Addiction at the University of Montreal and principal investigator at the Precision Psychiatry and Social Physiology Laboratory at the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center, wanted to find out. .
Dumas is also an associate academic member of Mila, the Quebec Institute of Artificial Intelligence, and holder of the IVADO Chair in Artificial Intelligence and Mental Health. His research interests include social neuroscience, systems biology and artificial intelligence.
In this study, the research team compared brain electrical activity during face-to-face interaction and technology-assisted remote communication in 62 mother-child pairs in which the children were aged 10 to 14 years old.
Using a technique called hyperscanning, which can record the brain activity of multiple subjects simultaneously, the research team found that interaction via a videoconferencing platform dampened mother-child brain synchrony.
Literally on the same wavelength
Several years ago, Dumas demonstrated that the human brain tends to synchronize spontaneously when engaged in social interaction, that is, its electrical rhythms oscillate at the same frequency.
“Inter-brain synchrony is associated with the development of social cognition,” Dumas explained. “The resonance between the brains allows children to learn to distinguish between themselves and others, to learn social relationships.”
The study found that face-to-face interactions elicited nine significant interbrain connections between the frontal and temporal areas of the brain, while remote interactions generated only one.
“If brain-brain synchronization is disrupted, we can expect consequences for the child’s cognitive development, particularly the mechanisms that support social interaction,” Dumas said. “And those are lifelong effects.”
Fundamentally social beings
Given the results, Dumas thinks more research is needed on the potential impact of social technology on brain maturation, especially in young people. In particular, he questions the relevance of online education for adolescents.
“I wonder about the digitization of education and the impact of the pandemic on the development of social cognition among young people, at a time when human relationships have become fragmented,” he said.
“This is an important but difficult question to answer, given that the full effects will not be known for 10, 15 or 20 years.”
According to Dumas, the study results can also be extrapolated to adults and may explain widespread “zoom fatigue” following the increase in video conferencing during COVID lockdowns: “Since online interactions produce less brain synchrony at brain, it’s understandable that people would feel they have to put more effort and energy into interacting,” he suggested. “Interactions feel more labored and less natural.”
Dumas believes the study confirms that social relationships are critically important to humans and that inter-brain mechanisms are linked to social brain development.
“These results are consistent with the findings of a study we conducted on the power of scent from one mother and another which found that a loving touch from a loving partner has the power to reduce pain. “, did he declare.
It seems that humans are interconnected by a technology more powerful than Zoom or Teams: our brains.
About this Neurodevelopment and Communication Research News
Author: Press office
Source: Montreal university
Contact: Press service – University of Montreal
Picture: Image is in public domain
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