Functional brain connectivity when cooperation fails

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Abstract

Functional connectivity during cooperative actions is an important topic in social neuroscience that has yet to be answered. Here, we examined the effects of administration of (fictitious) negative social feedback in relation to cooperative capabilities. Cognitive performance and neural activation underlying the execution of joint actions was recorded with functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) on prefrontal regions during a task where pairs of participants received negative feedback after their joint action. Performance (error rates (ERs) and response times (RTs)) and intra- and inter-brain connectivity indices were computed, along with the ConIndex (inter-brain/intra-brain connectivity). Finally, correlational measures were considered to assess the relation between these different measures. Results showed that the negative feedback was able to modulate participants' responses for both behavioral and neural components. Cognitive performance was decreased after the feedback. Moreover, decreased inter-brain connectivity and increased intra-brain connectivity was induced by the feedback, whereas the cooperative task pre-feedback condition was able to increase the brain-to-brain coupling, mainly localized within the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Finally, the presence of significant correlations between RTs and inter-brain connectivity revealed that ineffective joint action produces the worst cognitive performance and a more ‘individual strategy’ for brain activity, limiting the inter-brain connectivity. The present study provides a significant contribution to the identification of patterns of intra- and inter-brain functional connectivity when negative social reinforcement is provided in relation to cooperative actions.

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