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Chaos Drives the Motions of the Mind

July 21, 2009
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Learn more from this amazing video of neural activity.

From New Scientist:

brainThe idea that the brain might be fundamentally disordered in some way first emerged in the late 1980s, when physicists working on chaos theory – then a relatively new branch of science – suggested it might help explain how the brain works.

The focus at that time was something called deterministic chaos, in which a small perturbation can lead to a huge change in the system – the famous “butterfly effect”. That would make the brain unpredictable but not actually random, because the butterfly effect is a phenomenon of physical laws that do not depend on chance. Researchers built elaborate computational models to test the idea, but unfortunately they did not behave like real brains. “Although the results were beautiful and elegant, models based on deterministic chaos just didn’t seem applicable when looking at the human brain,” says Karl Friston, a neuroscientist at University College London.

In the 1990s, it emerged that the brain generates random noise, and hence cannot be described by deterministic chaos. When neuroscientists incorporated this randomness into their models, they found that it created systems on the border between order and disorder – self-organised criticality.

Read more from New Scientist.

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