“The Brain tunes itself to criticality, maximizing information processing”

Our brains are clearly amazing at processing the “blooming, buzzing1” world around us.  A recent experiment supports the theory that when neurons work together they actively cooperate to achieve their maximum processing capacity. They seek the urgent, intense edge of their ability. Picture them as the human runners in an Amazon “fulfillment center” except happy in their work.

The entire brain appears to seek this set point or default working state at the maximum of its abilities: “Where it is as excitable as it can be, without tipping into disorder, similar to a phase transition.” A phase transition is where matter transitions from one state, liquid, solid, or gaseous, to a different state.

In other words, our brains are balanced about one millimeter from chaos and disorder. That’s all of us, all the time. Returning from sleep or other off duty moments the brain tunes and retunes itself seeking this point.

While the study neither reveals nor claims anything else about our neurology, I think it points a bright red arrow at possible organic causes of ADHD (as well as ASD, schizophrenia, etc). If the default human phenome, the standard, mass-produced person has this edge-of-chaos set-point, then genetic variation (known to be the prime cause of ADHD) could easily generate a different set point. This variation might generate the quirky, out of step processing that makes us so valuable in the modern workforce, wait, strike that…

It also seems logical that anything that alters this point results in behavioral instability.

More and other interesting details in the reports:

Link to study results 

 

 

1 William James, writing about sensory processing. : “The baby, assailèd by eyes, ears, nose, skin, and entrails at once, feels it all as one great blooming, buzzing confusion; “

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