When guitarists play a duet, the activity of their brain waves synchronises. Scientists working with Ulman Lindenberger at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin had already discovered this in 2009. Now they have gone one step further, examining the brain activity of various pairs of guitar players performing a piece of music with two different parts. Their aim was to find out whether synchronisation of the brain waves would still occur when two guitarists are not playing exactly the same notes. If it did, this would be inconsistent with the assumption that similarities in brain activity between the two guitarists are entirely due to perceiving the same stimuli or performing the same movements. Instead, it would suggest something more spectacular: that the two brains synchronize to support interpersonal action coordination.
The word "spectacular" bothers me. It is what it is. And how else could it work? Maybe this result is spectacular in the context of old and often unstated assumptions. But, come on ladies and gents, it's time to enter the 21st century and leave the ghost of Descartes behind.
"When people coordinate actions with one another, small networks within the brain and, remarkably, between the brains are formed, especially when the activities need to be precisely aligned in time, for example at the joint play onset of a piece," says Johanna Sänger.The current data thus indicate that interbrain networks connect areas of both brains that previously have been associated with social cognition and music production. And such interbrain networks are expected to occur not only while performing music. "We assume that different people's brain waves also synchronise when people mutually coordinate their actions in other ways, such as during sport, or when they communicate with one another," Sänger says.
Again, what's with the "remarkably"?