Touch doesn’t just trigger a response in the brain of the recipient, but in that of the “toucher”, as well, according to IFLScience.com.
While normally, MRIs are only able to scan the brain activity of one person at a time, for this study researchers from Aalto University and Turku PET Centre took a typical 32-channel head coil and divided it into two 16-channel helmets that can simultaneously track what happens in two brains at the same time.
They scanned the brains of 10 couples - seven female-male pairs and three female-female pairs. Each couple spent 45 minutes inside the MRI scanner “in physical contact with each other. The objective of the study was to examine how social contact activates the brain,” according to a release from Aalto University.
“This is an excellent start for the study of natural interaction. People don’t just react to external stimuli, but adjust their actions moment-by-moment based on what they expect to happen next,” Riitta Hari, emerita Professor at Aalto University said.
When they looked at the scans, the researcher could see that both of the motor and sensory regions of both brains were activated.
“During social interaction, people’s brains are literally synchronized,” Professor Lauri Nummenmaa from Turku PET Centre said in a statement. “The associated mental imitation of other people’s movements is probably one of the basic mechanisms of social interaction. The new technology now developed will provide totally new opportunities for studying the brain mechanisms of social interaction.”
Read the full study in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.