A new study has found that the hearts of several people can beat in unison when they are attentive to a story that is being told. And the most surprising thing of all is that they do not need to be in the same room , but they can be miles apart.
Neuroscientist at the Paris Brain Institute Pauline Pèrez and her colleagues monitored the volunteers’ heart rhythms during a series of experiments, using an electrocardiogram. Listening to a one-minute snippet of 20,000 leagues of underwater travel in one experiment, or a few minutes of instructional videos in another, it was observed that the heart rates of the participants were synchronized, regardless of where they were.
The test with the instructional video showed that this phenomenon was not linked to emotion , something that previous studies had theorized after observing this synchrony in people who watched the same movie.
What was seen is that, if the concentration of the volunteers was interrupted, making them count backwards or with noises that took them out of their attentive listening, the synchrony of the beats was diminished , as well as their ability to remember the narration.
It has been shown that to remember something you need to be aware of what you are doing . This suggests that our hearts beat at the same time as our mind’s conscious processing of the narrative, the researchers explain. “The important thing is that the listener pays attention to the actions of the story,” says Jacobo Sitt, a neuroscientist at the Paris Brain Institute. “It’s not about emotions, it’s about being engaged and mindful and thinking about what’s going to happen next. The heart responds to those signals from the brain.”
The researchers conducted a final experiment to reinforce this requirement to pay attention. 19 unconscious patients and 24 healthy volunteers participated in it. As expected, most of the patients did not synchronize their heartbeats. However, two did. One of them regained consciousness. “These results suggest that patients’ [synchronized beats] could carry prognostic information with a specific emphasis on conscious verbal processing,” the team writes in their paper.
“There is a lot of literature that shows that people synchronize their physiology with each other. But the premise is that they are somehow interacting and physically present in the same place,” says Lucas Parra, a co-author of the study and a biomedical engineer. “What we have found is that the phenomenon is much broader, and that simply following a story and processing a stimulus causes similar fluctuations in people’s heart rate . It is cognitive function that makes the rate go up or down. cardiac”.
Pèrez and his team suspect that individual words, as well as the overall meaning of the narrative and the emotions they inspire, drive synchronization, noting that a cohesive narrative is crucial to creating the synchronized activity seen on brain scans.
However, the researchers caution that this is a very small study , in which each of the experiments consisted of only about 20-30 subjects, so the results need to be verified in larger groups of people. Comparisons with brain scans could help determine if the narratives are also the cause of the timing of the heartbeat.
Fuente: Conscious processing of narrative stimuli synchronizes heart rate between individuals. Cell Reports. Pauline Pérez, Jens Madsen, Leah Banellis, Bașak Türker, Federico Raimondo, Vincent Perlbarg, Melanie Valente, Marie-Cécile Niérat, Louis Puybasset, Lionel Naccache, Thomas Similowski, Damian Cruse, Lucas C. Parra, Jacobo D. Sitt. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109692