Great brains think alike

Lynne McTaggart

Lately, I’ve been studying the research about brain patterns between people to work out exactly when it is that we get on someone else’s wavelength – and why.  In this process, I came across some fascinating material about what happens to us physically when we work together for a common purpose.
In this study, carried out at the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, in Berlin, Germany and the University of Salzburg, in Austria, the scientists wanted to determine whether our brains, in a sense, ever act ‘in tandem’ with others when we’re engaged in a common purpose, considering that so much of our interaction with the world consists in synchronized and goal-directed actions with other people.
Although research had been done with functional magnetic resonance imaging, no one before had examined simultaneous brain wave activity between people doing some work together.
A brain wave of a study
The German and Austrian scientists themselves had a brain wave.  They decided to study brain activity of each of eight pairs of guitarists playing a short melody together to see to what extent cortical activity is synchronized between people when they’re working together (or, in this case, ‘swinging in concert’, as they put it).
They were encouraged by recent studies of two people when they socially interact. They found that one rhythm was associated with independent behavior, while another brain wave rhythm showed up and was shared by both parties when the behavior was coordinated. 
In this study, the Germans made use of an electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures electrical activity in the brain and is extraordinarily sensitive, capable of picking up the most minute of effects – even one-millionth of a volt of electricity.
Each of the eight musicians were instructed to wear a EEG cap while they played together, and the brain activity was then recorded.
Using special algorithms to both analyze of the brain activity of each person and in relation to his partner, the scientists found that the brain waves of each pair were highly synchronized and ‘in phase’ – that is, the waves peaking and troughing at certain points while preparing and beginning their coordinated play. 
In fact, entire areas of the brain had synchronized patterns, with the frontal and central regions the strongest, but the temporal and parietal regions also showing high synchronization in at least half the guitarist pairs. 
As the scientists discovered, the brain waves were most synchronized just when the musicians listened to the metronome to set the tempo and then when they began playing they melody together. 
The researchers concluded that whenever people do things together in a synchronized fashion, their brain waves follow suit.
We don’t yet know whether these couplings play an important role in maintaining interpersonal relations.  Nevertheless, it appears that it may do, particularly as this kind of brain wave synchronization also appears to have a vital role in early social development. 
In synch with mom
This begins with the first and most important relationship: our mothers. From our first breath, our heart waves and brain waves copy those of our mother whenever she is close by. 
Researchers such as Joseph Chiltern Pearce, author of Magical Child (Penguin, 2002), investigating why mothers are so naturally able to care for their children, discovered that the electrical frequencies of both the hearts and brains of both mother and child tend to go into entrainment, or synchrony, when the mother is engaged in breastfeeding or some other close direct interaction.
Indeed, other researchers, such as neurologist Dr. Alan Schore, who has done seminal work on attachment theory, believe that a baby learns to fire and wire its brain from its mother, who acts like a kind of brain-wave ‘template’.
As Schore once put it,  ‘The prefrontal cortex of the mother becomes the prefrontal cortex of the infant.’
Our pre-frontal lobes essentially get copied from this master template. 
Psychologist Dr. Gary Schwartz from the University of Arizona has even been able to identify the EEG pattern of the mother encoded within the EEG of the child and vice versa.  He believes that this encoding may be more pronounced, the closer the two are.
As I recounted in my book The Intention Experiment, a great deal of evidence show that under many types of circumstances, the electrical signalling in the brains of people gets synchronized (See the chapter called ‘The Love Study’).
This is particularly the case when someone is sending loving intention to the other. 
Ultimately, this could be the basis of all close relationships. We are able to get on with each other by getting on each other’s brain wave.
What fires together. . .
Donald Hebb first suggested in 1949 that neurons become more efficient and operate as a unit when they are repeatedly and persistently stimulated together.  Or as scientists usually put it: Neurons that fire together wire together.
What may be also true is that people who fire together wire together.
I think this is what may be happening when we carry out intention in small groups. As you know, I have supported the creation of micro communities on the Intention Experiment website or in my workshops.
I witness a powerful bonding between perfect strangers that can occur in a single day, which may have something to do with the seemingly miraculous healings that occur.
Uniting in common purpose
So this new research, while very preliminary, has a great significance.  When we work with others for a common purpose, we very quickly and literally get on their wave length.
Consider this in relation to what we discussed last week – how our modern middle-class neighborhoods have become toxic to all concerned.
I witnessed firsthand how uniting in common purpose can dissolve many seemingly insurmountable differences.  I live on the outskirts of London among a group of professionals, with whom I have little in common, and there is little neighborly interaction except of the most perfunctory variety.
However, this all changed several years ago, when Orange, a British cell phone company, announced its intention to install eight cell towers in our town, with one right on our block.
My neighbors and I were extremely concerned about the potential detrimental effects of a cell tower, particularly on our health, and within days, we were party to the most extraordinary social transformation. Eight of the women (myself included) came together and formed a ‘housewife’s’ brigade to protest Orange’s plans.
Faced with a common purpose, we needed no one in charge.  Everyone simply volunteered to take on whatever was necessary, and the division of labor happened automatically.
I was most interested, however, in the effect of this crisis on our relationships. I watched with fascination as this group of women with virtually nothing in common put aside their differences and began to relate to each other on a deeper level. In this emergency, we found the soul of a community we’d never thought we had.
All this suggests that coming together in small groups with a common purpose will unite us and provide a social cohesion beyond money, job or size of property.
What are your thoughts about how to create this new neighborhood  of common purpose, to replace Wisteria Lane?  Write below, or write in to us at

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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25 comments on “Great brains think alike”

  1. What wonderful information. As an energyworker, I am very much aware of the power of our intentions, especially when it relates to healing. It's exciting to see this type of research to confirm what many of us already know. I also teach a subtle body energy class and we use our collective intentions to send out love and light to our universe.
    Many blessings for the work that you do.

  2. Lynne,
    I would be honored if you would give us an article to post on, as you have so profoundly shaped my thinking, as evidenced in posts on or linked to that site discusses. Would you consider it?
    Your friend,
    Michael M. Hobby

  3. I tried to follow the link for Rinchen Dawa's blog on myspace, and got a message that the ID was invalid.
    Also did a search by name and came up with nothing.
    I would be interested in reading this explanation, so Rinchen, could you please check to see if you made an error in your link?

  4. See, for instance, your specific mention in the post, FAIR PLAY AND UNFAIR PLAY IN THE PURSUIT OF TRUTH, where you and your work, THE FIELD, are the example of an INTERCEPTION

  5. This is such a fascinating topic, great post!
    Interesting to note that the level of detail on which the synchronization of efforts occurs when playing music-- down to the beat-- is what makes it such a strong experience of brain synchronization, moreso than other types of creative collaboration, and closer to the experience of mother and child, or of course lovers engaged in love, two bodies driven by the same beat, moving forward in time --the same time-- together.
    As yoga teacher involved in a pretty tight community of yogis, I've often pontificated how such a strong bond forms between such disparate folks as are involved in my community. Doing yoga together, of course, is another highly synchronized group activity where the synchronization occurs down to the beat (in many styles of yoga, at least)!
    One answer to the question you pose is to take this scientific knowledge and use to create support for bringing some of these simple methods of group intention setting into communities we're already involved in, or temporary communities that form.
    When I was working at a corporate job, I often wished we could start every meeting with 2 minutes of yogic breathing, knowing how much it would change the tone of the meeting and save everyone a lot of time and energy. But without a scientific justification, that idea would not float in most corporate boardrooms, courtrooms, and other other centers of power.

  6. There is no doubt that some "unpleasant" or "dangerous" events often bring people together- the same during war and after World War II in Europe! I never could understand why there must be unpleasant events to get people together whereas the years of very good economy just led to "be better" "get more" and live isolated etc.
    Personally I have been always at "my best" when things did run smoothely! (smile)- but I seem to be programmed "the other way round"?!
    NOW we must work together - there is no other option.

  7. I would be curious as to the results of an experiment where the guitarists played a duet, i,e, one composition for two guitars but with different parts for each player. It would also be interesting to measure the brainwaves of a classical chamber music ensemble playing a fixed written piece, and compare the results to those produced by an improvising jazz band.

  8. This puts a whole different spin on the concept of 'marching' , whether it be a band, or an army. It is also interesting in terms of fish and birds who travel around in groups, as well as families, tribes and other tightly knit groups of humans (even gangs). It gives a deeper meaning to the word 'mindset' when it comes to groups.
    What I love about being alive at this time in history is how the things that we intuitively know are true without scientific validation are being borne out in the scientific laboratory. It helps people of all vibrations trust their own intuitive knowledge in the long run.

  9. My son plays in a US marching band that competes. At a competition, I noticed that if they walk totally in step from the bus area to the stadium where the competition is held, they perform better than if the do not walk in step. I think the act of walking in step for 10 or 15 minutes synchs their brain waves and they perform as one unit.

  10. The neighborhood of the soul is amaizing because energy knows energy. Everything is within..Jesus teaching..cause and effect...

  11. I work with people all over the world as professional Spiritual Healer. After a five minute telephone conversation I am able to send healing remotely without any other form of contact. In this way I have seen people recover from all forms of illness includes sufferers of MS and cancers.
    If you feel you need an individual that can work in this way please let me know (my service would always be unconditional) please see my website for a point of reference.
    I hope I can be of service to you
    Les Greve

  12. Hi Lynne and all reading this thread. I have been doing my own research with a heart tuner from the heart coherence team at - and the results have been fascinating.
    I have been told that I am an empath many time throughout my life but have not explored this in any way.
    Last year I visited Dan Winter when he was in the UK and discussed his work on coherence and had demo's of some of the latest state of the art biofeedback devices.
    I had been interested in Bio feedback for many years having brought a £10 gizmo from Radio shack (Tandy) back in the eighties.
    The heart tuner though was the other end of the scale and a state of the art tool that could be used for medical purposes.
    Linked up to a computer with wrist straps it was possible to read and record many of the aspects of heart and brain wave functions of one or two people. This device also measures coherence!
    I tried the device with a friend and to my amazement I witnessed how synchronised I was with my friends heart and brain wave patterns.
    As the output is recordable I am now looking to focus on and link up with someone over a distance and see if its possible to synchronise.
    IF anyone owns a heart tuner or has access to one please contact me on the Intention Experiment thread under my name.
    It would be amazing to get an almost identical read out from accross the globe!
    Best intentions to all Steven Burnand

  13. Hi Lynne,
    I am an artist and art teacher. I have found that when teaching my students drawing or painting, many, many times as I am about to give a suggestion or make a comment on something they are doing well, they will beat me to it and begin to do what I was about to suggest, such as working on a certain area of their art piece, correct an area that is needing some work, or say that they are really starting to understand something in the creative process and feel confident about it and what they are doing. The younger students and kids seem to be particularlly good at this, and I often joke with them that they are "reading my mind". It feels very much like we are on the same wavelength, and feeling, seeing and creating in sync with each other. It is always a satisfying and magical experience for me! I have always felt that creativity opens us up to the field, and each other, yet it is always still a thrill to get this confirmation! Thanks for all your wonderful work and writings!

  14. This gives new meaning to "we are all one" Indeed we seem to be swinging synchronistically in frequency when we work on a common project. I have experienced the same, when people laugh together. It is as if acceptance, understanding and love just become a part of every relation instantly, when we laugh together.

  15. In the midst of reading this article, my phone rang. It was an automated call from my local US Representative inviting me to a phone Town Hall meeting about the Swine Flu situation. All I had to do was not hang up and I would be connected into the conference call. I listened. An experiment of entrainment. Public Health doctor fielding questions from callers, moderated by the representative. Who knows how many hundreds of others were listening into what seemed like a live call. All joined together in the "It could be a deadly public health emergency, but don't panic (until we tell you to)" theme. I would rather it be an improvising jazz band.

  16. I wanted to help with the intention of the week, but have been unable to figure out when it would be during my local time. I am on Mountain Daylight Time. 5 hours GMT would be 11pm the previous day here. When you state the intention for the week is 5pm GMT what time is it here?

  17. Dear Lynn and all other who read this blog,
    intention seems to be one of todays key words. Books like "The Secret" are best selling since a couple of years. Positive thinking, cosmic ordering and creating the world how I like to have it as an expression of the desire for a better life in a time of crises and changes. All spirutual tradition are teaching the importance of looking carefully to one's own thoughts, because they (may) become true! One timeless book concerning this topic is "Thouhgt Power" from Annie Besant, you will find it as a free pdf-download here:
    Based on the fact, that the whole universe is pulsatory and in my point of view everything is vibration and nothing can get lost, it makes sense, that all thoughts are having a result, even if we do not notice them. Jesus let the fig tree die and tells his disciples, if their belief is almost as large as a mustard seed, the can call the mountain to dump into the sea.
    Having an intention is like asking a question to a close friend. Praying is much more personal, if I personally know, whom I can ask for. Crisis line towards friendship, cosmic universe towards God, sciences toward religion. The experince of faith is life changing, and this is what we need, to be oneself the change in the world, we would like to see!
    Heiko Peter, Switzerland

  18. As a future school teacher - perhaps lessons should start with 2 mins rhythmic humming. More evidence that couples work better 'as one'. Thanks for the great post. Namasta

  19. I am not at all surprised to read the findings about the mother/baby connection. I was always aware, when sleeping with my babies, that however soundly they were sleeping, if I sighed, they would give a sigh at virtually the same moment -i.e. they took a deep in-breath a split-second after I took mine. I always KNEW we were synchronised!

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