Cohesion and Joint Speech: Right Hemisphere Contributions to Synchronized Vocal Production

  • Jasmin K
  • McGettigan C
  • Agnew Z
  • et al.
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© 2016 the authors. Synchronized behavior (chanting, singing, praying, dancing) is found in all human cultures and is central to religious, military, and political activities, which require people to act collaboratively and cohesively; however, we know little about the neural underpinnings of many kinds of synchronous behavior (e.g., vocal behavior) or its role in establishing and maintaining group cohesion. In the present study, we measured neural activity using fMRI while participants spoke simultaneously with another person. We manipulated whether the couple spoke the same sentence (allowing synchrony) or different sentences (preventing synchrony), and also whether the voice the participant heard was “live” (allowing rich reciprocal interaction) or prerecorded (with no such mutual influence). Synchronous speech was associated with increased activity in posterior and anterior auditory fields. When, and only when, participants spoke with a partner who was both synchronous and “live,” we observed a lack of the suppression of auditory cortex, which is commonly seen as a neural correlate of speech production. Instead, auditory cortex responded as though it were processing another talker's speech. Our results suggest that detecting synchrony leads to a change in the perceptual consequences of one's own actions: they are processed as though they were other-, rather than self-produced. This may contribute to our understanding of synchronized behavior as a group-bonding tool.




Jasmin, K. M., McGettigan, C., Agnew, Z. K., Lavan, N., Josephs, O., Cummins, F., & Scott, S. K. (2016). Cohesion and Joint Speech: Right Hemisphere Contributions to Synchronized Vocal Production. Journal of Neuroscience, 36(17), 4669–4680.

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