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A field-theoretic approach to understanding scale-free neocortical dynamics


A mesoscopic field-theoretic approach is compared with neural network and brain imaging approaches to understanding brain dynamics. Analysis of high spatiotemporal resolution rabbit electroencephalogram ( EEG) reveals neural fields in the form of spatial patterns in amplitude ( AM) and phase ( PM) modulation of gamma and beta carrier waves that serve to classify EEGs from trials with differing conditioned stimuli (CS+/-). Paleocortex exemplified by olfactory EEG has one AM-PM pattern at a time that forms by an input-dependent phase transition. Neocortex shows multiple overlapping AM-PM patterns before and during presentation of CSs. Modeling suggests that neocortex is stabilized in a scale-free state of self-organized criticality, enabling cooperative domains to form virtually instantaneously by phase transitions ranging in size from a few hypercolumns to an entire hemisphere. Self-organized local domains precede formation of global domains that supervene and contribute global modulations to local domains. This mechanism is proposed to explain Gestalt formation in perception.

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