Kerstin Konrad

Interpersonal synchrony: Neurobiological mechanism, methodological considerations and potential pathways towards mental health interventions

From the play of a baby and parent to coordinated dancing, singing together in a choir or the la-ola wave in stadiums, our social behaviors are tightly synchronized with those of other people. This talk will introduce the concept and theories of interpersonal synchrony, exploring how our actions, emotions, physiological and neural states align with those of others in various social contexts. We will critically discuss the evidence for a causal role of interpersonal neural synchrony and delve into the potential neurobiological mechanisms underpinning these processes, examining the role of neural circuits, neurotransmitters involved, mirror neurons, and oscillatory brain activities. Methodological challenges which are crucial for capturing the dynamic and reciprocal nature of social interactions will be addressed. In the second part of the talk, we will explore the translation of interpersonal synchrony into mental health interventions. This includes its role in familiar transmission of psychopathology, resilience, stress contagion in groups, as well as direct therapeutic manipulations, such as hyper-neurofeedback. By understanding and leveraging the mechanisms of interpersonal synchrony, we will discuss its potential for innovative interventions to enhance social connectedness and address mental health issues. This talk aims to bridge basic research with practical applications, offering pathways towards improved mental health outcomes.


As a clinical psychologist and developmental neuroscientist, Professor Kerstin Konrad leads the Section of Clinical Child Neuropsychology at RWTH Aachen University and serves as the director at the JARA-BRAIN-Institute of Molecular Neuroscience and Neuroimaging at the Research Center Juelich. In her work, she investigates how the brain develops from infancy to young adulthood and what happens if brain development goes awry. Together with her team she investigates the role of interpersonal synchrony on social, emotional, and cognitive development in children and adolescents, as well as on the familial transmission of psychopathology. Engaged in numerous international collaborations, Professor Konrad advances the realm of developmental brain imaging and crafts cutting-edge, participatory interventions aimed at preventing and managing mental disorders in children and adolescents. With her work, she hopes to further bridge the gap between basic developmental neuroscience and clinical applications in the future.