The human brain is on the edge of chaos

Mar 20, 2009
Modern human brain
Modern human brain. Image source: Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison Brain Collection.

Cambridge-based researchers provide new evidence that the human brain lives "on the edge of chaos", at a critical transition point between randomness and order. The study, published March 20 in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology, provides experimental data on an idea previously fraught with theoretical speculation.

Self-organized criticality (where systems spontaneously organize themselves to operate at a critical point between order and ), can emerge from complex interactions in many different physical systems, including avalanches, forest fires, earthquakes, and heartbeat rhythms.

According to this study, conducted by a team from the University of Cambridge, the Medical Research Council Cognition & Brain Sciences Unit, and the GlaxoSmithKline Clinical Unit Cambridge, the dynamics of networks have something important in common with some superficially very different systems in nature. Computational networks showing these characteristics have also been shown to have optimal memory (data storage) and information-processing capacity. In particular, critical systems are able to respond very rapidly and extensively to minor changes in their inputs.

"Due to these characteristics, self-organized criticality is intuitively attractive as a model for brain functions such as perception and action, because it would allow us to switch quickly between mental states in order to respond to changing environmental conditions," says co-author Manfred Kitzbichler.

The researchers used state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques to measure dynamic changes in the synchronization of activity between different regions of the functional network in the human brain. Their results suggest that the brain operates in a self-organized critical state. To support this conclusion, they also investigated the synchronization of activity in computational models, and demonstrated that the dynamic profile they had found in the brain was exactly reflected in the models. Collectively, these results amount to strong evidence in favour of the idea that human brain dynamics exist at a critical point on the edge of .

According to Kitzbichler, this new evidence is only a starting point. "A natural next question we plan to address in future research will be: How do measures of critical dynamics relate to performance or neuropsychiatric disorders and their treatments?"


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More information: Kitzbichler MG, Smith ML, Christensen SR, Bullmore E (2009) Broadband Criticality of Human Brain Network Synchronization. PLoS Comput Biol 5(3): e1000314. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000314, http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000314

Source: Public Library of Science (news : web)

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User comments : 18

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thales
3.7 / 5 (7) Mar 20, 2009
That is fascinating. I've often thought that DNA must be similarly "meta-stable" in that it needs to be stable enough to maintain its general structure over generations but unstable enough to be able to quickly adapt to environmental changes.
thales
3.7 / 5 (7) Mar 20, 2009
The brain functions to allow very short-term adaptation while DNA functions to allow long-term adaptation. Similarly, epigenetics is a way DNA is also able to achieve medium-term adaptations.

http://en.wikiped...igenetic

Thus all three systems (well, one is a meta-system) are very likely meta-stable as they all have the opposite requirements of stability and adaptability. Probably in differing ratios, though. For example, I would imagine that for the selfish gene's continued survival, it's more important for DNA to be stable than a brain, at least longer term than say 20 or 30 years. Hmm, maybe that explains senility in old age too. Old brains can't quite keep up the delicate chemical/electrical balance and fall into chaos.
Ashibayai
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 21, 2009
Umm...I think your idea of chaos is a little skewed by your faith.

People can still believe that some god(or gods) control every aspect and still believe that chaos is part of it.

Also Thales, I've had the same thoughts about the role of DNA and cognitive function in evolution.
nilbud
3.9 / 5 (12) Mar 21, 2009
The god notion is just a way to avoid responsibility by having imaginary friends, despicable cowardice in reality.
runt
3.3 / 5 (7) Mar 21, 2009
Gosh nilbud, I'm not really sure using language like 'dispicable cowardice' adds anything to this discussion. Seems somewhat hateful.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (8) Mar 21, 2009
Gosh nilbud, I'm not really sure using language like 'dispicable cowardice' adds anything to this discussion. Seems somewhat hateful.




Just somewhat? Sounds like he's a half step away from advocating camps and ovens to me.
nilbud
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 21, 2009
It is despicable cowardice, although to please the hypocrites and despicable cowards it could be called lovely happy smiley scardyness. Magical thinking still amounts to a pack of self serving lies and self indulgent conceit.
Of course if you can believe in a bunch of nonsense before breakfast what kind of tripe can you manage by teatime. Camps and ovens, jihad, pogroms, if your magic invisible friends command who are you to refuse. As the Mormons know only too well religiosity requires sturdy underware.
runt
3 / 5 (4) Mar 21, 2009
No Nilbud, I was just saying...this is a science oriented thread about a particular topic, so I'm not sure why you would go off on such a tangent in such a hateful way. I was also wondering why you would use your keyboard in total anonymity to call someone a coward. Would you stand two feet from someone and call them a despicable coward, or do you feel more sheltered in the solitude of your home? By the way nilbud, it's spelled 'underwear'. How old are you? Have you ever seen the word 'scardyness' used in a sentence? Try to concentrate on the science if your anger will allow.
podizzle
2 / 5 (4) Mar 21, 2009
The funny thing is that nilbud in his close minded worldview has become the very thing he despises. "Magical" thinking is always what the cutting edge of science will be until it is accepted by science. The truth is "faith" and "surrender" are terms that help the quantum mind interact with the physical. It may not be proven yet but I bet most of you have an intuitive feeling it is true.
Damon_Hastings
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 22, 2009
Um... why are we talking about God, again? The article was about self-organized criticality in the human brain. Earnhardt's transition to religion was really quite a stretch, given that he's not even talking about the same kind of "chaos" that the article talks about. Earnhardt is talking about emotional chaos, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the mathematical chaos discussed in the article. The article is saying that a normal, healthy brain (with no feelings of emotional chaos) exhibits neural patterns which are on the border of what mathematicians call "chaos". All brains do this, regardless of what they're thinking or feeling.

Or are we just using any excuse to talk about God now? ;-)
Ashibayai
3 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2009
Um... why are we talking about God, again? The article was about self-organized criticality in the human brain. Earnhardt's transition to religion was really quite a stretch, given that he's not even talking about the same kind of "chaos" that the article talks about. Earnhardt is talking about emotional chaos, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the mathematical chaos discussed in the article. The article is saying that a normal, healthy brain (with no feelings of emotional chaos) exhibits neural patterns which are on the border of what mathematicians call "chaos". All brains do this, regardless of what they're thinking or feeling.

Or are we just using any excuse to talk about God now? ;-)


Wow, thanks for explaining what I was getting at.

My favorite thing about physorg isn't that people have the ability to create great ideas, but that they can articulate them better than I can.







Well...maybe just some people.
jonnyboy
2.3 / 5 (6) Mar 22, 2009
stick to your guns nilbud and let the non-realists whine all they want.
NickB
not rated yet Mar 22, 2009
Whoaaa. This is like blowing my mind maaan.

Maybe - other chaotic systems establish similar order structures, and show consciousness.

Like - maybe the Sun?!? Plasma charge interaction type stuff.

It's big and bad and can do just about anything it wants to us.

We are at it's mercy. We are all people of the Sun.
KBK
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2009
Reality, as within the scope or range of the idea of 'matter'...is the idea and execution of 'quantum foam'..ie, order in 2-d fields interacting that manifest as 3-d resonant-oscillating-frequency oriented vortexes..ie, particles--in time.

Is it any wonder that in this 'world'..that the mind would exhibit the same roiling 'edge of order and chaos' type structure?

As above-so below.
KBK
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 23, 2009
This also supports that dude who designed software that is self organizing and he then pulls the plug on it with another aspect ot the software-it eats or kills itself at the same time.

The interesting part is that it has done some seriously interesting design work for him in the process. It has designed the newest toothbrushes, Nike shoes, and has even composed poetry that is astoundingly good.

When he does this..it creates an astounding capacity for the software to REASON..or pull rabbits out of it's ass--depending on how you look at it.

The correlation is there.

I've also said that if you stress a man to his limit and beyond..so that he is forced to deal with some part of his mental structure dying a death of sorts..then new reasoning comes to the fore and he can understand and reason with new ideas, new tools, new understandings.

Both points..the one in this article and the one about the software design..support this premise and point.

Out with the old..in with the new.

Grow..you bastards.

Sadly..the more painful the process..the better and greater the moment of the capacity psychological, or inner change.
freethinking
1.9 / 5 (7) Mar 23, 2009
I was just going to make a smart comment such as my brain is not on the edge of chaos, but is chaos. (a sentement some here would agree with Im sure)

Then came the mean speech. Lets just say an athiest has absolute proof that there is no God. He (or she)sees a dying believer in God who happens to be a young child. The child says he is going to die and then be with God. The athiest tell him, there is no god, you are just going into oblivion, you are stupid for beliving in god.

mean speak....
Ethelred
not rated yet Mar 25, 2009
mean speak....


While there are some childish people here I don't think there are many if any actual children.

Ethelred
nilbud
1 / 5 (1) Mar 27, 2009
Can't something be done about these greasy morons clogging this place with their bullshit religion and pathetic lies.

Tripe such as this:

"Would you stand two feet from someone and call them a despicable coward, or do you feel more sheltered in the solitude of your home? How old are you? Have you ever seen the word 'scardyness' used in a sentence? Try to concentrate on the science if your anger will allow."

Is clearly the product of a subnormal mind. Childish value judgements, inability to spell, and sexual impotence are like currency to these people.

There are a group of these simple dunces trying to inject pig ignorant religiosity into every thread. They creep me out. Religion is just an unfunny joke they keep telling over and over.

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