Interpersonal physiological synchrony to monitor attention in a group


EEG signals in different individuals attending to the same narrative or movie clip have been found to be more similar to each other when they are attending this stimulus compared to when they are not. Recently, we found that this also holds for heart rate and skin conductance, and that this interpersonal physiological synchrony predicts the amount of remembered information of an auditory narrative and movie clips. These findings are potentially relevant for real life applications since they may enable monitor attention in a group attending ecologically relevant stimuli in a relatively easy way, without needing complex sensors and without needing to collect training data. However, in the experiments up to date, participants were presented with these stimuli subsequently rather than in one actual group. Also, we cannot yet register physiological synchrony in real time.


At the start of October 2023, we will collect heart rate and skin conductance data in part of the audience at the inaugural speech of Anne-Marie Brouwer. We welcome students who want to be part in setting this up and in analyzing the data. Research questions include whether we can obtain reliable physiological synchrony under these real life circumstances, whether we can distinguish between two different subgroups who are expected to attend to different elements (relatives and close friends versus colleagues from the same research field), and whether we can detect the occurrence of pre-determined salient events. In addition, we can host students to work on the development of an online implementation of detecting physiological synchrony, ending up in a demonstrator. Finally, multimodal datasets (EEG, heart rate, skin conductance) are available for developing and testing improved algorithms of physiological synchrony. The work will involve collaboration with researchers from TNO.

Skills required

  • Good programming skills
  • Skills in signal analysis
Sara Ahmadi
Sara Ahmadi
Postdoctoral researcher