Investigating cooperative behavior in ecological settings: An EEG hyperscanning study

Jlenia Toppi, Gianluca Borghini, Manuela Petti, Eric J. He, Vittorio De Giusti, Bin He, Laura Astolfi, Fabio Babiloni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


The coordinated interactions between individuals are fundamental for the success of the activities in some professional categories. We reported on brain-to-brain cooperative interactions between civil pilots during a simulated flight. We demonstrated for the first time how the combination of neuroelectrical hyperscanning and intersubject connectivity could provide indicators sensitive to the humans' degree of synchronization under a highly demanding task performed in an ecological environment. Our results showed how intersubject connectivity was able to i) characterize the degree of cooperation between pilots in different phases of the flight, and ii) to highlight the role of specific brain macro areas in cooperative behavior. During the most cooperative flight phases pilots showed, in fact, dense patterns of interbrain connectivity, mainly linking frontal and parietal brain areas. On the contrary, the amount of interbrain connections went close to zero in the non-cooperative phase. The reliability of the interbrain connectivity patterns was verified by means of a baseline condition represented by formal couples, i.e. pilots paired offline for the connectivity analysis but not simultaneously recorded during the flight. Interbrain density was, in fact, significantly higher in real couples with respect to formal couples in the cooperative flight phases. All the achieved results demonstrated how the description of brain networks at the basis of cooperation could effectively benefit from a hyperscanning approach. Interbrain connectivity was, in fact, more informative in the investigation of cooperative behavior with respect to established EEG signal processing methodologies applied at a single subject level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0154236
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is co-financed by EUROCONTROL on behalf of the SESAR Joint Undertaking in the context of SESAR Work Package E—NINA research project, by Project FIRB 2013 (Fondo per gli Investimenti della Ricerca di Base-Futuro in Ricerca)—RBFR136E24, by the University of Rome Sapienza “Progetti di Ateneo per la Ricerca Scientifica anno 2014” and by the Italian Minister of University (MIUR) under the grant PRIN2012.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Toppi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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