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EEG dynamics and neural generators of psychological flow during one tightrope performance
Psychological “flow” emerges from a goal requiring action, and a match between skills and challenge. Using high-density electroencephalographic (EEG) recording, we quantified the neural generators characterizing psychological “flow” compared to a mindful “stress” state during a professional tightrope performance. Applying swLORETA based on self-reported mental states revealed the right superior temporal gyrus (BA38), right globus pallidus, and putamen as generators of delta, alpha, and beta oscillations, respectively, when comparing “flow” versus “stress”. Comparison of “stress” versus “flow” identified the middle temporal gyrus (BA39) as the delta generator, and the medial frontal gyrus (BA10) as the alpha and beta generator. These results support that “flow” emergence required transient hypo-frontality. Applying swLORETA on the motor command represented by the tibialis anterior EMG burst identified the ipsilateral cerebellum and contralateral sensorimotor cortex in association with on-line control exerted during both “flow” and “stress”, while the basal ganglia was identified only during “flow”.