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Published September 2021 | Published + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Team Flow Is a Unique Brain State Associated with Enhanced Information Integration and Interbrain Synchrony


Team flow occurs when a group functions in a high task engagement to achieve a goal, commonly seen in performance and sports. Team flow can enable enhanced positive experiences, as compared with individual flow or regular socializing. However, the neural basis for this enhanced behavioral state remains unclear. Here, we identified neural correlates (NCs) of team flow in human participants using a music rhythm task with electroencephalogram hyperscanning. Experimental manipulations held the motor task constant while disrupting the corresponding hedonic music to interfere with the flow state or occluding the partner's positive feedback to impede team interaction. We validated these manipulations by using psychometric ratings and an objective measure for the depth of flow experience, which uses the auditory-evoked potential (AEP) of a task-irrelevant stimulus. Spectral power analysis at both the scalp sensors and anatomic source levels revealed higher β-γ power specific to team flow in the left middle temporal cortex (L-MTC). Causal interaction analysis revealed that the L-MTC is downstream in information processing and receives information from areas encoding the flow or social states. The L-MTC significantly contributes to integrating information. Moreover, we found that team flow enhances global interbrain integrated information (II) and neural synchrony. We conclude that the NCs of team flow induce a distinct brain state. Our results suggest a neurocognitive mechanism to create this unique experience.

Additional Information

© 2021 Shehata et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided that the original work is properly attributed. Received March 29, 2021. Revision received August 19, 2021. Accepted September 7, 2021. Published online October 4, 2021. We thank Dr. Charles Yokoyama (University of Tokyo, Japan), Dr. Simone Shamay-Tsoory (University of Haifa, Israel), Dr. Katsumi Watanabe (Waseda University, Japan), and Dr. Makio Kashino (NTT Communications Science Laboratories, Japan) for their comments on this manuscript. We also thank Shota Yasunaga (Pitzer College, CA), Jessica Ye (California Institute of Technology, CA), Naomi Shroff-Mehta (Scripps College, CA), and Salma Elnagar (University of Cambridge, UK) for help with data collection and analysis and Wenqi Yan (Monash University, Australia) for preliminary data analysis with integrated information. This work was supported by the Program for Promoting the Enhancement of Research Universities funded to Toyohashi University of Technology and Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (Fostering Joint International Research(B), Grant Number 18KK0280) (M.S. and S.N.), Sponsored Research by Qneuro, Inc. (M.S. and S.S.), Translational Research Institute through NASA Cooperative Agreement NNX16AO69A (M.S. and S.S.), and by the Japan Science and Technology (JST)-CREST Grant JPMJCR14E4 (to S.S.). M.C. is supported by the University of Hong Kong Postgraduate Scholarship Program. C.-h.T. is supported by the University of Hong Kong General Research Fund and the Cooperative Research Project Program of the Research Institute of Electrical Communication, Tohoku University. N.T. is supported by Australian Research Council Discovery Projects Grants DP180104128 and DP180100396. A.L. is supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Attached Files

Published - ENEURO.0133-21.2021.full.pdf

Supplemental Material - inline-supplementary-material-1.tif

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Supplemental Material - inline-supplementary-material-9.docx


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Additional details

August 20, 2023
December 22, 2023