Real-Time Eye-to-Eye Contact Is Associated With Cross-Brain Neural Coupling in Angular Gyrus

J. Adam Noah, Xian Zhang, Swethasri Dravida, Yumie Ono, Adam Naples, James C. McPartland, Joy Hirsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Direct eye contact between two individuals is a salient social behavior known to initiate and promote interpersonal interaction. However, the neural processes that underlie these live interactive behaviors and eye-to-eye contact are not well understood. The Dynamic Neural Coupling Hypothesis presents a general theoretical framework proposing that shared interactive behaviors are represented by cross-brain signal coherence. Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) adapted for hyper scanning, we tested this hypothesis specifically for neural mechanisms associated with eye-to-eye gaze between human participants compared to similar direct eye-gaze at a dynamic video of a face and predicted that the coherence of neural signals between the two participants during reciprocal eye-to-eye contact would be greater than coherence observed during direct eye-gaze at a dynamic video for those signals originating in social and face processing systems. Consistent with this prediction cross-brain coherence was increased for signals within the angular gyrus (AG) during eye-to-eye contact relative to direct eye-gaze at a dynamic face video (p < 0.01). Further, activity in the right temporal-parietal junction (TPJ) was increased in the real eye-to-eye condition (p < 0.05, FDR corrected). Together, these findings advance a functional and mechanistic understanding of the AG and cross-brain neural coupling associated with real-time eye-to-eye contact.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2020


  • eye-to-eye contact
  • fNIRS
  • hyperscanning
  • live dyadic interactions
  • neural coherence
  • neural coupling
  • temporoparietal junction
  • two-person neuroscience

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