CEXS-UPF: Order within the noise in the brain

CEXS-UPF: Order within the noise in the brain

News from CEXS-UPF

If we examine our brain activity as a whole, the first image that comes to our mind is the one of a not-tuned TV: a noisy image consisting of white and black spots. Therefore, the question is: how is it possible that the brain works in such an organized way? The research teams of Jordi García-Ojalvo, group leader of the Dynamical Systems Biology and professor at Pompeu Fabra University, and Maria V. Sánchez-Vives, group leader of the Systems Neuroscience team and ICREA research professor at the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), study the phenomenon of stochastic coherence in the brain in an article published in the journal Nature Physics.

Neurons hosted in our brains do not seem to follow an ordered pattern of behavior. In fact, the activity of individual neurons rarely shows regularly in their impulses. How can we explain the regular cycles that govern the functioning of our brain, especially in periods like sleep? Researchers point to the so-called "white noise", that is, the set of random signals that commonly occur in any system and are usually considered undesirable, as a responsible. Imagine a neuronal response that depends on the magnitude of the signal reaches a certain threshold. Perhaps the signal alone, albeit cyclic and regular, does not reach the threshold required to trigger the response. However, if we add a background noise to this cyclical signal, the value of the signal increases thus reaching the necessary threshold that will lead to the answer.

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Reference work:
Belén Sancristóbal, Beatriz Rebollo, Pol Boada, Maria V. Sanchez-Vives, Jordi Garcia-Ojalvo. Collective stochastic coherence in recurrent neuronal networks. Nature Physics, Maig 2016. DOI: 10.1038/NPHYS3739