The After-glow of flow: Neural correlates of flow in musicians

Tan, Jasmine; Luft, Caroline Di Bernardi and Bhattacharya, Joydeep. 2023. The After-glow of flow: Neural correlates of flow in musicians. Creativity Research Journal, ISSN 1040-0419 [Article] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

Flow is a state of optimal or peak experience, commonly associated with expert and creative performance. Musicians often experience flow during playing, yet the neural mechanisms underlying this elusive state have remained underexplored due to challenges posed by substantial artefacts in the neural data. Here, we bypassed these issues by focusing on the resting-state immediately following a flow experience. Musicians performed pieces expected to reliably induce a flow state, and, as a control, non-flow-inducing musical pieces. Following the flow state, we observed higher spectral power in the upper alpha (10-12 Hz) and beta (15-30 Hz) bands, primarily in the frontal brain regions. Connectivity analysis, using the phase slope index, showed a right frontal cluster influencing activities in the left temporal and parietal areas at the theta (5 Hz) band, particularly pronounced in musicians reporting high dispositional flow. Theta band connectivity within the frontoparietal control network facilitates cognitive control and goal-directed attention, potentially crucial for achieving the flow state. These results reveal large-scale oscillatory correlates associated with the immediate post-flow state in musicians. Importantly, this framework holds promise for exploring the neural basis of flow-related states in a laboratory setting while preserving ecological and content validity.

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Funding details: The first author was supported by an ESRC-funded doctoral fellowship. The study was partially supported by the CREAM project funded by European Commission Grant 612022.

Data Access Statement:

The processed data and code for analyses will be made available on Github, and raw data will be made available upon reasonable request.


Music; flow experience; EEG; brain oscillations; connectivity; expertise

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25 October 2023Accepted
22 November 2023Published Online

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Date Deposited:

31 Oct 2023 13:18

Last Modified:

28 Nov 2023 14:49

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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