Current Psychology

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 991–1002 | Cite as

Donate or receive? Social hyperscanning application with fNIRS

  • Michela BalconiEmail author
  • Giulia Fronda
  • Maria Elide Vanutelli


Recent research in social neuroscience has shown how prosocial behavior can increase perceived self-efficacy, perception of cognitive abilitites and social interactions. The present research explored the effect of prosocial behavior, that is giving a gift during an interpersonal exchange, measuring the hyperscanning among two brains. The experiment aimed to analyze the behavioral performance and the brain-to-brain prefrontal neural activity of 16 dyads during a joint action consisting in a cooperative game, which took place in a laboratory setting controlled by an experimenter, to play before and after a gift exchange. Two different types of gift exchange were compared: experiential and material. Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) was applied to record brain activity. Inter-brain connectivity was calculated before and after the gift exchange. In behavioral data, a behavioral performance increase was observed after gift exchange, with accuracy improvement and response times decrease. Regarding intra-brain analyses, an increase in oxygenated hemoglobin was detected, especially in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in both donor and receiver; and in the dorsal part of the premotor cortex (DPMC) in the donor. Moreover, as regards the gift type, greater activation in the DPLFC emerged in both the donor and the receiver after receiving an experiential gift. Finally, the results of the inter-brain connectivity analysis showed that after gift exchange, the donor and receiver brain activity was more synchronized in the DPMC and Frontal Eye Fields (FEF) areas. The present study provides a contribution to the identification of inter-brain functional connectivity when prosocial behaviors are played out.


Prosocial behavior Hyperscanning Inter-brain activity Intra-brain activity Gift exchange 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Declaration of Conflict of Interest

The author declared no conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship or the publication of this article.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving hu- man participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Oral informed consent was obtained from all indi- vidual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Unit in Affective and Social NeuroscienceCatholic University of the Sacred HeartMilanItaly
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyCatholic University of the Sacred HeartMilanItaly
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MilanMilanItaly

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