Human brains live on the ‘edge of chaos’
A new study from University of Cambridge has provided new evidence that the human brain lives "on the edge of chaos", at a critical transition point between randomness and order.Updated: Mar 20, 2009 21:04 IST
A new study from University of Cambridge has provided new evidence that the human brain lives "on the edge of chaos", at a critical transition point between randomness and order.
The researchers claim to have identified a mechanism called self-organized criticality, where systems spontaneously organize themselves to operate at a critical point between order and randomness.
This phenomenon might occur from complex interactions in many different physical systems, including avalanches, forest fires, earthquakes, and heartbeat rhythms.
The research team believes that dynamics of human brain networks have something important in common with some superficially very different systems in nature.
During the study, the researchers investigated the synchronization of activity of the brain in computational models.
The 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.
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.
"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," said co-author Manfred Kitzbichler.
"A natural next question we plan to address in future research will be: How do measures of critical dynamics relate to cognitive performance or neuropsychiatric disorders and their treatments?" Kitzbichler added.
The study appears in the journal PLoS Computational Biology.
First Published: Mar 20, 2009 13:36 IST