In a new experiment, researchers from Drexel University compared two conflicting theories about the state of flow. They wanted to understand which one better captured what was going on in people’s brains as they generated ideas. According to one theory, flow is a state of intense hyperfocus on a task; According to the other, flow is the weakening of attention or conscious control.

32 jazz guitarists from Philadelphia participated in the study. Experience levels ranged from beginner to experienced. Scientists placed electrodes on their heads to record EEG brain waves. The musicians also improvised according to the chord progressions and rhythms they were given.

It turns out that the most experienced musicians are more in flow than beginners. Experience is probably a prerequisite for this situation to occur. And people’s brain activity showed why.

Musicians who were in flow while playing showed decreased activity in parts of the frontal lobes involved in executive functions or cognitive control. So flow was associated with reduced conscious control over other parts of the brain.

When the most experienced musicians were in flow, they had more activity in areas related to hearing and vision. This is most likely because they improvise by reading chord progressions and listening to the rhythms provided to them.

Source: Ferra

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