I originally posted this in December 2013. I'm bumping it to the top of the queue as this topic is much on my mind these days.
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Mark Liberman has just posted on this topic over at Language Log, so I'm boosting this post to the top of the pile. He also cites the Hasson article.
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Trends Cogn Sci. 2012 Feb;16(2):114-21. Epub 2012 Jan 3.
Brain-to-brain coupling: a mechanism for creating and sharing a social world.
Hasson U, Ghazanfar AA, Galantucci B, Garrod S, Keysers C.
Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cognition materializes in an interpersonal space. The emergence of complex behaviors requires the coordination of actions among individuals according to a shared set of rules. Despite the central role of other individuals in shaping one's mind, most cognitive studies focus on processes that occur within a single individual. We call for a shift from a single-brain to a multi-brain frame of reference. We argue that in many cases the neural processes in one brain are coupled to the neural processes in another brain via the transmission of a signal through the environment. Brain-to-brain coupling constrains and shapes the actions of each individual in a social network, leading to complex joint behaviors that could not have emerged in isolation.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
PMID: 22221820 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID: PMC3269540 [Available on 2013/2/1]
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The key statement is that “that in many cases the neural processes in one brain are coupled to the neural processes in another brain via the transmission of a signal through the environment.” I made such an argument the conceptual centerpiece of my 2001 book on music, Beethoven's Anvil. I reprised and extended some of those ideas in my essay-review of Steven Mithen's The Singing Neanderthals. See also my post, The Sound of Many Hands Clapping: Group Intentionality, my various posts on coupling, and the piece I did with David Ramsey, Musical Coupling: Social and Physical Healing in Three Disabled Patients.
Addendum: Here's an informal write-up of Hasson's work.