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How can we understand each other during communicative interactions? An influential suggestion holds that communicators are primed by each other's behaviors, with associative mechanisms automatically coordinating the production of communicative signals and the comprehension of their meanings. An alternative suggestion posits that mutual understanding requires shared conceptualizations of a signal's use, i.e., "conceptual pacts" that are abstracted away from specific experiences. Both accounts predict coherent neural dynamics across communicators, aligned either to the occurrence of a signal or to the dynamics of conceptual pacts. Using coherence spectral-density analysis of cerebral activity simultaneously measured in pairs of communicators, this study shows that establishing mutual understanding of novel signals synchronizes cerebral dynamics across communicators' right temporal lobes. This interpersonal cerebral coherence occurred only within pairs with a shared communicative history, and at temporal scales independent from signals' occurrences. These findings favor the notion that meaning emerges from shared conceptualizations of a signal's use.

Original publication

DOI

10.1073/pnas.1414886111

Type

Journal article

Journal

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date

23/12/2014

Volume

111

Pages

18183 - 18188

Keywords

conceptual knowledge, dual functional magnetic resonance imaging, experimental semiotics, social interaction, theory of mind, Adolescent, Adult, Behavior, Brain, Brain Mapping, Communication, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Young Adult