Zooming In on Your Brain: How It Reacts to Virtual Meetings

According to new research using sophisticated imaging tools, the brain activity of people interacting on Zoom differs from that of people in regular conversations. This article examines this research and the effect of this meeting platform on your brain.

What Were The Study’s Findings?

Joy Hirsch, professor of psychiatry, comparative medicine, and neuroscience at Yale University, said the study shows that the human brain’s social systems are more active during real-life discussions than on Zoom. She also said Zoom is a poor social communication system compared to in-person conditions.

The researchers reported that human brains are tuned to process facial cues during in-person interactions. During the study, participants experienced increased neural signaling in face-to-face conversations. This was associated with longer gaze time and wider pupils, suggesting increased brain arousal in both individuals.

Participants who had in-person interactions also experienced more brain wave activity, typical of enhanced face-processing ability. The investigators also discovered more coordinated neural activity between the brains of individuals communicating in person. This suggests an increase in reciprocal exchanges of social cues between the pairs.

Hirsch said the dynamic and natural social interactions that happen during in-person conversations are less frequent or absent during Zoom meetings.

Are In-person Meetings Important?

Hirsch said face-to-face interactions are vital for humans’ natural social behaviors. She also said online representations of faces don’t provide the same access to social neural circuitry in the brain that is seen with physical conversations. In-person meetings are also important for the following reasons:

Interpret Nonverbal Cues

In-person meetings also help you identify nonverbal cues that can help you steer the conversation. This helps you assess how interested people are in the conversation.

Build New Relationships

Physical meetings with clients, colleagues, and coworkers make it easier to develop trust and form deeper connections.

Address Sensitive Issues

When you need to deal with sensitive issues, meeting in person lets you explain the problem without room for misinterpretation. It also makes it easier to show sympathy and understanding. This makes it easier to work through the issue together.

Increase Participation and Engagement

Face-to-face meetings can boost participation and engagement by encouraging clients and coworkers to be fully present. When participants can see each other physically during a meeting, they are more likely to contribute to the conversation.


Zoom meetings have made interactions easier, but studies show a lack of social interaction in in-person conversations. Alternatively, face-to-face meetings can help you interact better and form new relationships.