When students pay attention in class, their brainwaves show remarkably similar patterns, a U.S. study said Thursday.
The findings, published in the U.S. journal Current Biology, were based on a follow-up of a group of 12 high school students and their teacher for an entire semester, during which researchers recorded their brain activity during regular classroom activities using portable electroencephalogram (EEG) technology.
"We found that students' brainwaves were more in sync with each other when they were more engaged during class," said co-lead author Suzanne Dikker of New York University and Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
Dikker said brain-to-brain synchrony also reflected how much students liked the teacher and how much they liked each other.
In addition, brain synchrony was also affected by face-to-face social interaction immediately before class and students' personalities.
"We think that all these effects can be explained by shared attention mechanisms during dynamic group interactions," said Dikker.
The researchers thought that the level of synchrony might come from a well-known phenomenon called neural entrainment.
"Your brainwaves 'ride' on top of the sound waves or light patterns in the outside world, and the more you pay attention to these temporal patterns, the more your brain locks to those patterns," Dikker explained.
"So, if you and the person next to you are more engaged, your brainwaves will be more similar because they are locking onto the same information."
The researchers are now designing large-scale projects in which they'll be able to record brain data and other biometrics from up to 45 people simultaneously in an auditorium.
They hoped to answer questions such as: What are the "optimal" conditions for an audience to experience a performance or movie? Is there an ideal group size? Does interaction right before a performance improve the experience? How do the audience and the performer affect each other?