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David Rosen, "The Neural Substrates of Expertise and Flow Among Jazz Guitarists"

Thursday, March 14, 2019, 03:30pm - 04:30pm

RuCCS, Psych A139, Busch Campus

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Please join us this week for two one-hour seminar style presentations aimed at an undergraduate student audience on cool topics

Talk by David Rosen -


"The Neural Substrates of Expertise and Flow Among Jazz Guitarists"

Abstract - While the link between flow and creativity is often assumed, there is a dearth of evidence supporting this claim. Flow is the mental state one enters when fully immersed in an activity, accompanied by the loss of reflective self-consciousness and the merging of action and awareness. The neurocognitive mechanisms of flow are poorly understood; however, theories of flow suggest that it may be characterized by transient hypofrontality, an inhibition of executive systems as implicit, automatic, Type 1 processes are engaged. Similar processes and mechanisms have been proposed for creativity, particularly artistic creativity. We examine the neural basis of flow and its impact on the quality of creative products within the domain of jazz improvisation. Jazz guitarists (N = 32) improvised to novel chord sequences while 64-channel EEG was recorded. Jazz experts rated each improvisation. Behaviorally, hierarchical regression models revealed musicians’ flow scores and expertise significantly predicted the quality ratings of the improvisations. Using SPM12 for EEG, we investigated the significant clusters of electrophysiological activity for the significant behavioral factors of high- and low-flow and expertise). Broadly, high-flow was characterized by increased alpha and beta-band activity in right-posterior cortices, while low-flow displayed increased left-frontal activity. For expertise, high-expertise was characterized by increased beta and gamma-activity in left-posterior and central cortices, yet the low-expertise condition revealed a highly significant cluster of high-frequency activity bilaterally in frontal regions. Taken together, we interpreted these findings as support for the transient hypofrontality hypothesis, whereby the inhibition of executive, top-down control and enhanced recruitment of posterior, associative, bottom-up processes underlies flow, creativity, and domain-expertise in jazz improvisation.