Brains in Sync: Esports Team Coordination and Interpersonal Prefrontal Neural Synchrony

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Brains in Sync: Esports Team Coordination and Interpersonal Prefrontal Neural Synchrony

In order to better understand the demands of esports athletes and advance the field of esports performance and esports medicine, it is important to make use of available technologies for assessing cognitive function. Neuroimaging is one such technology that can enable us to better understand the role of cognition in esports team performance. 

The article “Brains in Sync: Team Coordination and Interpersonal Prefrontal Neural Synchrony During Cooperative e-Gaming” discusses an ongoing study that makes use of neuroimaging technologies, specifically electroencephalography (EEG) and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), to study teamwork in virtual environments. The authors suggest that multiplayer videogames, such as esports, offer a controlled and dynamic team environment that allows researchers to study teamwork in a naturalistic and engaging manner. In particular, esports can be used to study team structures, team composition, communication, and emergent leadership. The authors also discuss the concept of shared mental models, which refers to the shared understanding between team members about the nature of the task, the present situation, and the goals and risks involved. They argue that the development of shared mental models is critical for team function and that model consistency is a prerequisite for successful team coordination.

The authors further suggest that the use of neuroimaging technologies, such as fNIRS and EEG, in the study of teamwork can provide insight into the neural mechanisms underlying team cognition and performance. They posit that the results of this type of research could have practical applications in fields such as emergency medical services, first responders, and military engagements, where teamwork is critical in high-stress situations. 

The authors describe an experimental protocol that includes both single-player and cooperative teamplay conditions in e-sports. They will use cognitive tasks to evaluate participants’ cognitive abilities and then have them play rounds of the game Escort Mode against artificial intelligence (AI) opponents in the single-player condition. In the cooperative teamplay conditions, participants will be paired into dyads and play against AI opponents together, either in separate rooms or in the same room. The authors will use neuroimaging techniques to measure neural synchrony between team members and also collect subjective measures of team performance.

The authors expect to find that neural synchrony between team members will be higher in the cooperative teamplay conditions compared to the single-player condition, and that it will be higher when team members are physically present in the same room compared to when they are playing remotely. They also expect to see correlations between individual cognitive abilities and team performance.

Overall, this article presents an innovative approach to studying teamwork and team cognition using neuroimaging techniques in the context of e-sports. The proposed experimental protocol has the potential to provide insights into the neural basis of effective teamwork and how physical presence and individual cognitive abilities may impact team performance.

Clinical Pearls

Based on these findings, coaches or support staff may want to consider the following points when working with teams:

  1. The importance of interpersonal synchrony: Encouraging team members to work closely together and develop a shared understanding of tasks and goals may help to enhance synchrony and improve performance.
  1. The impact of physical presence: While remote work may be necessary in some situations, coaches and support staff may want to consider the benefits of in-person collaboration and try to facilitate opportunities for team members to work together in the same location when possible.
  1. The use of neuroimaging techniques: This study highlights the potential of neuroimaging techniques like fNIRS and EDA in studying team performance and identifying factors that contribute to success. Coaches and support staff may want to consider exploring research based on these techniques into their work to gain a deeper understanding of how their teams operate and how they can improve performance.

Note: as this is an in-progress study, an updated post will be published when available.


Brains in Sync: Team Coordination and Interpersonal Prefrontal Neural Synchrony During Cooperative e-Gaming
AB Curtin, J Watson, Y Topoglu, N DeFilippis, H Ye, R Suri, H Ayaz
NATO Human Factors & Medicine (HFM) Symposium

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