Anyone who has ever played in an orchestra will be familiar with the phenomenon: the impulse for one’s own actions does not seem to come from one’s own mind alone, but rather seems to be controlled by the coordinated activity of the group.
Scientists working with Ulman Lindenberger at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin had already discovered in 2009 that the activity of guitarists' brain waves synchronises when they play a duet. Now the scientists have gone one step further, examining the brain activity of various pairs of guitar players performing a piece of music with two different parts. Their aim was to find out whether synchronisation of the brain waves would still occur when two guitarists are not playing exactly the same notes. If it did, this would be inconsistent with the assumption that similarities in brain activity between the two guitarists are entirely due to perceiving the same stimuli or performing the same movements. Instead, it would suggest something more spectacular: that the two brains synchronize to support interpersonal action coordination.
This is, in fact, what they found. Further, synchronization was present before the duet even began to play. "When people coordinate actions with one another, small networks within the brain and, remarkably, between the brains are formed, especially when the activities need to be precisely aligned in time, for example at the joint play onset of a piece," says Johanna Sänger.
This is expected to occur in other situations as well--not only in music performance.