The present study examined neural substrates underlying turn-based cooperation and competition in a real two-person situation. We simultaneously measured pairs of participants' activations in their bilateral frontal, temporal, and parietal regions using a 96-channel near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) system, when participants played a turn-Taking disk-game on a computer. NIRS data demonstrated significant inter-brain neural synchronization (INS) across participant pairs' right posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) in both the cooperation and competition conditions, and the competition condition also involved significant INS in the right inferior parietal lobule (IPL). In addition, competitive dyads' INS in the bilateral inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) may play as a role of mediation in relationship between their empathy score and disk-manipulation latency, but cooperative dyads' INS did not. These results suggest that first the right pSTS may be commonly involved in both cooperation and competition due to task demands of joint attention and intention understanding, while the right IPL may be more important for competition due to additional requirements of mentalizing resources in competing contexts. Second, participants' empathy may promote INS in the bilateral IFG across competitors, and in turn affect their competitive performance.
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