Studying the neural basis of human social interactions is a key topic in the field of social neuroscience. Brain imaging studies in this field usually focus on the neural correlates of the social interactions between two participants. However, as the participant number further increases, even by a small amount, great difficulties raise. One challenge is how to concurrently scan all the interacting brains with high ecological validity, especially for a large number of participants. The other challenge is how to effectively model the complex group interaction behaviors emerging from the intricate neural information exchange among a group of socially organized people. Confronting these challenges, we propose a new approach called "Cluster Imaging of Multi-brain Networks" (CIMBN). CIMBN consists of two parts. The first part is a cluster imaging technique with high ecological validity based on multiple functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) systems. Using this technique, we can easily extend the simultaneous imaging capacity of social neuroscience studies up to dozens of participants. The second part of CIMBN is a multi-brain network (MBN) modeling method based on graph theory. By taking each brain as a network node and the relationship between any two brains as a network edge, one can construct a network model for a group of interacting brains. The emergent group social behaviors can then be studied using the network's properties, such as its topological structure and information exchange efficiency. Although there is still much work to do, as a general framework for hyperscanning and modeling a group of interacting brains, CIMBN can provide new insights into the neural correlates of group social interactions, and advance social neuroscience and social psychology.
Duan, L., Dai, R. N., Xiao, X., Sun, P. P., Li, Z., & Zhu, C. Z. (2015). Cluster imaging of multi-brain networks (CIMBN): A general framework for hyperscanning and modeling a group of interacting brains. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 9(JUL). https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2015.00267