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Interpersonal neural synchrony and mental disorders: unlocking potential pathways for clinical interventions

Konrad, Kerstin, Gerloff, Christian, Kohl, Simon H., Mehler, David M. A., Mehlem, Lena, Volbert, Emily L., Komorek, Maike, Henn, Alina T., Boecker, Maren, Weiss, Eileen and Reindl, Vanessa 2024. Interpersonal neural synchrony and mental disorders: unlocking potential pathways for clinical interventions. Frontiers in Neuroscience 18 , 1286130. 10.3389/fnins.2024.1286130

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Introduction: Interpersonal synchronization involves the alignment of behavioral, affective, physiological, and brain states during social interactions. It facilitates empathy, emotion regulation, and prosocial commitment. Mental disorders characterized by social interaction dysfunction, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), often exhibit atypical synchronization with others across multiple levels. With the introduction of the “second-person” neuroscience perspective, our understanding of interpersonal neural synchronization (INS) has improved, however, so far, it has hardly impacted the development of novel therapeutic interventions. Methods: To evaluate the potential of INS-based treatments for mental disorders, we performed two systematic literature searches identifying studies that directly target INS through neurofeedback (12 publications; 9 independent studies) or brain stimulation techniques (7 studies), following PRISMA guidelines. In addition, we narratively review indirect INS manipulations through behavioral, biofeedback, or hormonal interventions. We discuss the potential of such treatments for ASD, RAD, and SAD and using a systematic database search assess the acceptability of neurofeedback (4 studies) and neurostimulation (4 studies) in patients with social dysfunction. Results: Although behavioral approaches, such as engaging in eye contact or cooperative actions, have been shown to be associated with increased INS, little is known about potential long-term consequences of such interventions. Few proof-of-concept studies have utilized brain stimulation techniques, like transcranial direct current stimulation or INS-based neurofeedback, showing feasibility and preliminary evidence that such interventions can boost behavioral synchrony and social connectedness. Yet, optimal brain stimulation protocols and neurofeedback parameters are still undefined. For ASD, RAD, or SAD, so far no randomized controlled trial has proven the efficacy of direct INS-based intervention techniques, although in general brain stimulation and neurofeedback methods seem to be well accepted in these patient groups. Discussion: Significant work remains to translate INS-based manipulations into effective treatments for social interaction disorders. Future research should focus on mechanistic insights into INS, technological advancements, and rigorous design standards. Furthermore, it will be key to compare interventions directly targeting INS to those targeting other modalities of synchrony as well as to define optimal target dyads and target synchrony states in clinical interventions.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Additional Information: License information from Publisher: LICENSE 1: URL:
Publisher: Frontiers Media
ISSN: 1662-4548
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 26 March 2024
Date of Acceptance: 30 January 2024
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2024 14:45

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