In recent decades, much more research has been done on the brain and how the brain works. Experts are interested in understanding how your neurons create a feeling, a concept, or a reality. So neuronal synchronization seems to be the way to do this.
Initially, it was believed that the nervous system had a hierarchy. For example, one group of neurons was tasked with encoding certain things, then sharing this information with a more specialized group, and finally transferring this information to the last neuron, tasked with processing all the information as a whole.
However, that specialized group would require an enormous number of specific neurons, making it impossible to keep them in one room. Another limitation of that approach was the explanation of all the different cognitive functions, such as attention or expectation.
Another proposed mechanism is neuronal synchronization. The brain acts in a decentralized way. It is able to process different information at the same time, activating several areas at once.
Thus, neuronal synchronization would be responsible for coordinating all brain activity in a very detailed manner.
The coordinated effort of your neurons is what allows different neural groups, from many different areas, to join forces dynamically and functionally.
This also plays an essential role in your brain’s effective communication. It can happen in many ways. For example, it can synchronize two different neurons that are close to each other or in two different groups on opposite sides of the brain.
This can only happen if there is a pattern of electrical activity in those neuronal groups. Neurons can only communicate with each other if output and input occur at the same time.
Technically, action potentials must occur at the same time. However, uncoordinated episodes are also part of neuronal synchronization, as they allow the alternation between cognitive states and tasks.
Evidence for neuronal synchronization
As we said above, the synchronization between neurons or groups of neurons is essential to connect different areas of the brain and do things successfully. One of the most discussed cognitive processes is language.
In one study, students were asked to pay attention to words they heard or saw. These words could be verbs or precise or abstract names. As they saw or read these words, their brainwaves were studied to calculate their synchronicity.
The results showed that verbs cause less synchronization in the frontal lobe than names. Accurate names caused greater synchronization between both hemispheres than abstract names.
On the other hand, interaction with other people creates neuronal synchronization. Each person’s brain activity synchronizes with the other’s when they are having a conversation, for example.
Another study focused on a group of students from the same class, throughout an entire course. The study found that when the students were motivated and having fun in class, their brains synced the most with their classmates.
What does this mean?
The neuronal synchronization findings are tools for understanding how the brain processes information, how it relates to the rest of our bodies, and how people connect with other people.
They can also be used to understand some brain and psychological disorders. In cases such as schizophrenia or autism, unsynchronized patterns of brain activity can be observed in different subjects, which may be related to their perception of reality or their communicative intent.