Defence of dissertation in the field of cognitive science, Dmitry Smirnov, M.Sc.
Synchronous brains think alike
Dmitry Smirnov M.Sc., will defend the dissertation "Brain basis of sharing and transmitting representations of social world" on 22 March 2018 at 12 noon at the Aalto University School of Science.This dissertation addressed the neural systems supporting social communication during life-like conditions ranging from natural speech perception to dynamic action observation and simulated social interaction across dyads.
Sociability and the ability to pursue shared goals are defining features of our species. Communication and co-operation enable us to accomplish deeds that would never have been possible for a single individual. But what sort of neural mechanisms allow two physically independent brains to exchange information and interact with each other? Previous studies have addressed brain mechanisms subserving human social behavior in single individuals and with strictly controlled laboratory settings. However, social behavior is complex, dynamic, and occurs oftentimes in dyads, thus brain mechanisms of real-life social interaction have remained poorly understood.
This dissertation addressed the neural systems supporting social communication during life-like conditions ranging from natural speech perception to dynamic action observation and simulated social interaction across dyads. The studies developed a novel framework for measuring and analyzing neural activity across two interacting individuals. The results reveal that when two individuals interact, regionally synchronized brain activity across the individuals could be one of the core principles that support social communication. Consistent with this assumption, the thesis demonstrated that machine learning algorithms can be used for “decoding” information that one individual sees based on the brain activation of another individual that is transmitting the information. This allows “hyper-brain-reading” where one individuals’ brain activity can be predicted on the basis of another individual’s activity patterns.
The results of this thesis highlight that similarity of neural activity during social interaction supports social interaction. Shared information enables us to simulate others’ mental and bodily states and help us to understand and view the external world in a similar fashion.
Dissertation release (pdf)
Opponent: Dr. James Kilner, University College of London, United Kingdom
Custos: Professor Mikko Sams, Aalto University School of Science, Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering
Electronic dissertation: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-60-7837-3