# Is it possible to detect the mental flow state with EEG?

I know that it is possible to detect "focus" with a consumer EEG with a single electrode and a reference point (ear clip), even without conductive gel, but is it possible to detect a flow state with any level of technology (whether it be professional or consumer)? Are flow states and focus synonymous? Is the mechanism of flow by it's nature undetectable by EEG?

• Cool question! All I can contribute off the top of my head is to say that flow and focus are not synonymous. Beyond task-specific concentration, flow often implies a lapse in awareness of oneself and of the passage of time. Flow is also often euphoric (arguably even a peak experience) and dependent on an optimal level of arousal. IMO, focus is a somewhat broader term. This ought to be good news though, in as much as it implies that flow experience should be a more homogeneous state of mind conducive to more reliable EEG patterns. – Nick Stauner Jun 17 '14 at 18:22
• Note that nothing can be detected with a single electrode, as electricity only flows between two points and current exists only in reference to two points. Moreover, I do not think the question is answerable; I do not think it's likely that this task can be achieved considering even the detection of focus is wonky with a full electrode set in lab conditions, and I'm not aware of anybody who's (convincingly) tried to measure flow (though I personally would love to try!), but we can't prove it's impossible. – jona Jun 17 '14 at 20:36
• Corrected the description of the test setup and I'll think about your comments in regards to my question being unanswerable. – Seanny123 Jun 18 '14 at 14:05
• I think a first step would be qualifying the statement about the detection of focus via such a reduced setup. Really, if it were that simple, a bunch of extremely smart researchers I follow who've been trying to achieve just that using state of the art lab tech for decades now would in retrospect look like a bunch of idiots. However, as a greatly less optimistic question ("has anybody yet investigated the flow state with the EEG?"), I think it's quite interesting. – jona Jun 18 '14 at 22:37
• There are research papers on neural correlates of Csíkszentmihályi's flow (but not too many). The easiest way is to search for Csikszentmihalyi EEG or Csikszentmihalyi fMRI, with much more results from the later (and some related to other states of mind related to creativity and mindfulness). – Piotr Migdal Jul 31 '15 at 14:33