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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Nonlinear brain dynamics as macroscopic manifestation of underlying many-body field dynamics

  • Author(s): Freeman, Walter J, III
  • Vitiello, G
  • et al.

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Neural activity patterns related to behavior occur at many scales in time and space from the atomic and molecular to the whole brain. Patterns form through interactions in both directions, so that the impact of transmitter molecule release can be analyzed to larger scales through synapses, dendrites, neurons, populations and brain systems to behavior, and control of that release can be described step-wise through transforms to smaller scales. Here we explore the feasibility of interpreting neurophysiological data in the context of many-body physics by using tools that physicists have devised to analyze comparable hierarchies in other fields of science. We focus on a mesoscopic level that offers a multi-step pathway between the microscopic functions of neurons and the macroscopic functions of brain systems revealed by hemodynamic imaging. We use electroencephalographic (EEG) records collected from high-density electrode arrays fixed on the epidural surfaces of primary sensory and limbic areas in rabbits and cats trained to discriminate conditioned stimuli (CS) in the various modalities. High temporal resolution of EEG signals with the Hilbert transform gives evidence for diverse intermittent spatial patterns of amplitude (AM) and phase modulations (PM) of carrier waves that repeatedly re-synchronize in the beta and gamma ranges in very short time lags over very long distances. The dominant mechanism for neural interactions by axodendritic synaptic transmission should impose distance-dependent delays on the EEG oscillations owing to finite propagation velocities and sequential synaptic delays. It does not. EEGs show evidence for anomalous dispersion: neural populations have a low velocity range of information and energy transfers, and a high velocity range of the spread of phase transitions. This distinction labels the phenomenon but does not explain it. In this report we analyze these phenomena using concepts of energy dissipation, the maintenance by cortex of multiple ground states corresponding to AM patterns, and the exclusive selection by spontaneous breakdown of symmetry (SBS) of single states in sequential phase transitions.

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