Brain noise is a good thing

Jul 04, 2008

Canadian scientists have shown that a noisy brain is a healthy brain.

"Brain noise" is a term that has been used by neuroscientists to describe random brain activity that is not important to mental function. Intuitive notions of brain-behaviour relationships would suggest that this brain noise quiets down as children mature into adults and become more efficient and consistent in their cognitive processing.

But new research from the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, published in the July 4, 2008 issue of the Public Library of Science - Computational Biology, overturns this notion.

"What we discovered is that brain maturation not only leads to more stable and accurate behaviour in the performance of a memory task, but correlates with increased brain signal variability," said lead author, Dr. Randy McIntosh, a senior scientist with the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest. "This doesn't mean the brain is working less efficiently. It's showing greater functional variability, which is indicative of enhanced neural complexity."

In the study, 79 participants representing two main age groups – children (eight to 15) and young adults (20 to 33 years of age) – completed a series of face memory tasks to measure their ability to recall faces with accuracy. EEG recordings were collected to measure their brain signal activity while performing the task. EEG – electroencephalography – is a powerful brain imaging tool that allows for precise measurement of the timing of brain activity in response to external stimuli.

Researchers found that not only did the young adults score better on the face recognition tasks (i.e. they showed more stable and accurate cognitive behaviour) compared to the children, but the young adults' brain signal variability actually increased – got noisier.

"These findings suggest that the random activity that we think of as noise may actually be a central component of normal brain function," said Dr. McIntosh.

Source: Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care

Explore further: Environmental pollutants make worms susceptible to cold

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Peacock's train is not such a drag

36 minutes ago

The magnificent plumage of the peacock may not be quite the sacrifice to love that it appears to be, University of Leeds researchers have discovered.

Space: The final frontier... open to the public

58 minutes ago

Historically, spaceflight has been reserved for the very healthy. Astronauts are selected for their ability to meet the highest physical and psychological standards to prepare them for any unknown challenges. However, with ...

NASA releases IRIS footage of X-class flare (w/ Video)

59 minutes ago

On Sept. 10, 2014, NASA's newest solar observatory, the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, mission joined other telescopes to witness an X-class flare – an example of one of the strongest solar flares—on ...

Recommended for you

Environmental pollutants make worms susceptible to cold

1 hour ago

Some pollutants are more harmful in a cold climate than in a hot, because they affect the temperature sensitivity of certain organisms. Now researchers from Danish universities have demonstrated how this ...

Research helps steer mites from bees

3 hours ago

A Simon Fraser University chemistry professor has found a way to sway mites from their damaging effects on bees that care and feed the all-important queen bee.

User comments : 0