How does complex behavior spontaneously emerge in the brain?

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The idea of emergence, in which complex behavior spontaneously emerges out of simple interactions, exists in a wide variety of areas, such as economics, the Internet, and urban development. But perhaps the ultimate example of emergence is in the brain, where thousands of randomly firing neurons spontaneously reach a coherent state of collective, periodic firing that underlies all brain functions. Despite significant progress, the mechanisms responsible for the origin and maintenance of spontaneous neuronal activity are still poorly understood.


In a new study published in Nature Physicsa team of researchers from Spain has shown that emergence in  can be explained as a noise-driven phenomenon that is controlled by the interplay between network topology and intrinsic . In this scenario, a randomly fired pulse propagates through the network and is amplified by noise focusing, which the researchers describe as an implosive concentration of spontaneous activity.

"From the experimental point of view, we show that in neuronal cultures, the emergence early in the development of collective spontaneous activity is dominated by the presence of activity waves that initiate in specific regions of the culture, in a similar way as it happens in vivo," lead author Javier G. Orlandi at the University of Barcelona told Phys.org. "And with the help of simulations, we also show that you don't need any special mechanism to explain this behavior, just the right combination of  and dynamics. These waves emerge naturally from the noise focusing effect, in which individual firings propagate and concentrate in specific regions to later generate these activity waves."

Written By: Lisa Zyga
continue to source article at phys.org

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  1. When I was in high school the prime numbers baffled me. How could something so asymmetrical come from such a regular generating process?

    That complexity does not derive from from simplicity is firmly part of our intuition, even though it is obviously not so.

    Some counter examples:

    1. honeycomb wave sculptures in sandstone
    2. desert pillars sculpted by wind
    3. seeds become trees
  2. I see other research on brain development:-

    researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences have used embryonic stem cells to grow a tiny human brain in a laboratory. The miniature brain, roughly the size of a pea, is at the same level of development as that of a 9-week-old fetus. http://science.slashdot.org/story/13/08/28/1948241/mini-brains-grown-in-the-lab

    The tissues reached their maximum size, about 4mm (0.1in), after two months. The ‘mini-brains’ have survived for nearly a year, but did not grow any larger.

    Perhaps they used creationist stem cells?

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