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Joy Hirsch, PhD

Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Comparative Medicine and of Neuroscience



Humans, by nature, are irrepressibly social and neural mechanisms that underlie real-time social behaviors are not well-understood. The overarching goal of my research is to address this knowledge gap by discovering the fundamental neural mechanisms that underlie interactive social behaviors. We have developed multi-modal two-person neuroimaging technologies based on near infrared spectroscopy, fNIRS, configured for neural and behavioral measures of real-time live face-to-face and dialogue interactions between humans. Converging evidence from simultaneous measures of neural responses, facial classifications, eye-tracking, pupillometry, EEG, and behavioral reports of subjective effects builds a foundation for a new “neuroscience of two”. Emerging theoretical frameworks are founded on the interactive brain hypothesis purporting that neural systems during interaction engage processes not engaged during “solo” tasks, and recent findings of cross-brain neural synchrony suggest that brain-to-brain coupled mechanisms underlie social processing.

Recent selected publications

Hirsch, J., Noah, J.A., Zhang, X., Dravida, S., & Ono, Y. (2018). A cross-brain neural mechanism for human-to-human verbal communication. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 13(9), 907–920. DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsy070

Piva, M., Zhang, X., Noah, J. A., Chang, S. W., & Hirsch, J. (2017). Distributed neural activity patterns during human-to-human competition. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 11, 571.

Dravida S., Noah J.A., Zhang X., & Hirsch J. (2020). Joint attention during live person-to-person contact activates rTPJ, including a sub-component associated with spontaneous eye-to-eye contact. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 14(201). doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2020.00201

Cañigueral, R., Zhang, X., Noah, J. A., Tachtsidis, I., Hamilton, A., & Hirsch, J. (2020). Facial and neural mechanisms during interactive disclosure of biographical information. NeuroImage, 226, 117572.

Descorbeth, O., Zhang, X. , Noah, J.A., & Hirsch, J. (2020). Neural processes for live pro-social dialogue between dyads with socioeconomic disparity. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience,15(8), 875–887.

Kelley, M., Noah, J.A., Zhang, X., Scassellati, B., & Hirsch, J. (2020). Comparison of human social brain activity during eye-contact with another human and a humanoid robot. Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 7, 209. doi: 10.3389/frobt.2020.599581

Hirsch J, Tiede M, Zhang X, Noah JA, Salama-Manteau A and Biriotti M (2021) Interpersonal Agreement and Disagreement During Face-to-Face Dialogue: An fNIRS Investigation. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 14:606397. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2020.606397.

Ono, Y., Zhang, X., Noah, J. A., Dravida, S., & Hirsch, J. (2021). Bidirectional connectivity between Broca's Area and Wernicke's Area during interactive verbal communication. Brain Connectivity. doi: 10.1089/brain.2020.0790.

Crum J, Zhang X, Noah A, Hamilton A, Tachtsidis I, Burgess P, Hirsch J. An Approach to Neuroimaging Interpersonal Interactions in Mental Health Interventions. Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging. 2022 Feb 7; 2022 Feb 7.

Education & Training

  • PhD
    Columbia University (1977)
  • MA
    Portland State University, Experimental Psychology (1970)
  • BS
    University of Oregon, Biology (1967)

Honors & Recognition

George Gamow Science Award2009
Leah M Lowenstein Teaching Award1990

Departments & Organizations