When people listen to stories, they unconsciously synchronize their heartbeats with the story — and thus with each other — a study has shown.
The finding builds on previous studies showing that people often synchronize bodily functions such as heart rate or breathing when undergoing a shared experience.
Experts led by the Paris Brain Institute found that a similar phenomenon also occurs when people just listen to a story, as long as they pay attention.
The finding could help develop a new and easy-to-administer hospital test to determine a particular patient’s level of consciousness.
When people listen to stories, they unconsciously synchronize their heartbeats with the story – and therefore with each other – a study has shown
Your heart rate explained
Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute (bpm).
A normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
However, it will vary depending on when it was measured and what you were doing right before the measurement.
Your target heart rate (THR) is between 50% and 70% of your maximum heart rate.
You should try to train with your heart rate between these two numbers.
Your target heart rate will help you safely increase your fitness and strength.
“There is a lot of literature showing that people synchronize their physiology with each other,” says author and biomedical engineer Lucas Parra of the City College of New York.
But, he explained, usually “the premise is that you interact in some way and physically present the same place.”
“What we found is that the phenomenon is much broader and that following a story and processing a stimulus will cause similar swings in people’s heart rates,” he added.
“It’s the cognitive function that drives your heart rate up or down.”
“It’s important for the listener to pay attention to the actions in the story,” added fellow paper author and neuroscientist Jacobo Sitt of the Paris Brain Institute.
“It’s not about emotions, it’s about being involved and attentive, and thinking about what’s going to happen. Your heart responds to those signals from the brain.’
In their study, the team conducted a series of four experiments, in which participants all followed an audio story or video while their heart rate was measured using an electrocardiogram.
For the first test, 27 adults listened to a 16-minute clip from the opening of Jules Verne’s 1870 science fiction adventure, “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas.”
“The text is relatively exciting because it describes reports of an unknown monster destroying ships,” the researchers note in their paper.
Based on the electrocardiogram measurements, the team found that the subjects’ heart rates changed based on what happened in the story, with most experiencing increases and decreases in heart rate at the same points in the story.
The following experiment included five tutorial videos that, unlike the audiobook excerpt, had no underlying emotional variation, allowing the team to demonstrate that emotional involvement in the story played no role in synchronization.
The finding builds on previous studies showing that people often synchronize bodily functions such as heart rate or breathing when undergoing a shared experience. Experts led by the Paris Brain Institute found that a similar phenomenon occurs when people just listen to a story — as long as they pay attention
While playing the clips in front of 27 students at the City College of New York, the researchers again found that the subjects’ heart rates showed similar fluctuations when they watched the video.
The clips were then replayed, but this time the contestants were asked to watch the videos counting back in their heads from a starting number between 800 and 1,000 in increments of seven.
This led to a decrease in the synchronization between heart rate and video across all subjects, indicating that attention must play an important role.
Building on this, in the third test, 21 adults were asked to recall facts from a series of short children’s stories, some of which they were allowed to listen carefully to and from which they were distracted by the researchers.
The team found that the more the participants’ heartbeats were synchronized with the story, the more likely they were to accurately recall the details.
This, the researchers said, shows that the changes in heart rate are a signal of the conscious processing of the story.
The finding could help develop a new and easy-to-administer hospital test to determine a particular patient’s level of consciousness. Pictured: A hospital patient in a coma
In their latest experiment, the researchers recruited 19 patients suffering from disturbances of consciousness, such as being in a coma, or a persistent vegetative state, and compared them with 24 healthy controls.
As in the previous test, each participant was told an audio story for children.
The team found that, as expected, the patients had a slower synchronization rate than the healthy subjects who were more able to follow the story, but also that some of the patients who showed higher levels of synchronization did regain some consciousness over time. . the next six months.
Based on the findings, the researchers propose that such a test could be used to easily assess a patient’s state of consciousness.
“This study is still very preliminary, but you can imagine that this is an easy test that can be implemented to measure brain function,” says Professor Sitt.
‘It doesn’t require a lot of equipment. It could even be performed in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.”
However, the neuroscientist added that further testing with larger numbers of patients will be needed to verify the results, in addition to comparisons with brain function scans such as can be made with electroencephalogram and functional MRI machines.
According to Professor Parra, this kind of research is important for understanding topics such as the brain-body connection and mindfulness.
“Neuroscience opens up in terms of the brain’s thinking as part of a real anatomical, physical body,” he explained.
‘This research is a step towards looking more broadly at the connection between brain and body, in terms of how the brain influences the body.’
The study’s full findings were published in the journal Mobile Reports.
The human ‘mind meld’: our brains synchronize when we talk to another person
By having a conversation, the participants’ brains start working simultaneously, researchers found.
Researchers analyzed the brain activity of two strangers who were having a conversation for the first time and found that the movement of their brain waves happened simultaneously.
This pattern is so significant that the researchers were able to figure out whether two people were having a conversation just by analyzing their brainwave.
The findings may have applications for cases where people have difficulty communicating.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Basque Center for Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL), confirmed by recording brain activity that the neuronal activity of two people involved in a communication act ‘synchronises’ to create a ‘connection’ between them. subjects.
“It involves communication between the brain that goes beyond language itself and can be a key factor in interpersonal relationships and understanding of language,” Jon Andoni Duñabeitia, a co-author of the study, told SINC.
The rhythms of the brain waves corresponding to the speaker and listener adapt according to the physical properties of the sound of the verbal messages expressed in a conversation.
“The brains of the two people are brought together thanks to language, and communication creates connections between people that go far beyond what we can perceive from the outside,” said Dr. Dunabeitia
“Only by analyzing their brain waves can we find out whether two people are having a conversation.”
To conduct the study, the researchers analyzed the brain waves of 15 same-sex pairs of people, where complete strangers were separated from each other by a folding screen.
This was to ensure that the connection generated was actually due to communication being established.
They used a technique called electroencephalography (EEG), which measures electrical activity in the brain.
It is a non-invasive procedure that uses flat metal disc electrodes attached to the scalp.
To be able to know if two people are talking to each other, and even what they are talking about, based solely on their brain activity, is really a wonderful thing,” said Dr. Duñabeitia.
“Now we can explore new applications that are very useful in special communicative contexts, such as with people who have difficulty communicating.”
The researchers say that understanding this interaction between two brains could enable the analysis of complex aspects of psychology, sociology, psychiatry or education in the future.
“Demonstrating neural synchronicity between two people involved in a conversation was only the first step,” said Dr Alejandro Pérez, co-author of the study.
“There are still many unanswered questions and challenges to be solved.”
dr. Pérez also says that the practical potential of the study is enormous.
“Communication problems arise every day,” says Dr. Pérez.
“We intend to make the most of this discovery of interbrain synchronization with the aim of improving communication.”
As a next step, the researcher plans to apply the same technique and pairing dynamics to see if two people’s brains “synchronize” in the same way when the conversation takes place in their non-native language.