Sunday, July 5, 2009

self-organized criticality in the brain

Beautiful visualizations of brain activity. A new metaphor for understanding how thought works is 'self-organized criticality'. It is not logical, not random, not based on deterministic chaos, but based on a critical state in between stability and turbulent instability that might be the optimum for information transmission within highly complex interlinked structures such as the brain. It also appears to allow the brain to adapt itself quickly to new situations, by rearranging which neurons synchronize to a particular frequency.

An analogy is made with a growing pile of sand; it keeps growing in a quite predictable fashion - this corresponds to the brain's resting state - , until the pile collapses and an avalanche of sand creates new piles, creating an increasingly complex structure over time.

This metaphor could also help to understand what the brain does in people with autism, epilepsy, schizophrenia and other ailments. To me, it would be interesting to create a map of what common stable states are in this self-organization process of the brain; a sequence that everybody's brain follows from foetus to possibly enlightened individual and what the neural correlates of these states are. I namely believe - and agree with Ronald Laing - that discovering/creating such a map could greatly help people with mental illnesses by guiding them on inner journeys, where they have to puzzle things out for themselves. Such a map could show people where the journey can lead to, what the path looks like, and how it can best be travelled.

No comments: