Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Highly flexible despite hard-wiring – even slight stimuli change information flow in the brain

26.03.2012
One cup or two faces?

What we believe to see in one of the most famous optical illusions changes in a split second; and so does the path that the information takes in the brain.


Faces or cup? Due to the rapid reorganisation of networks in the brain, we perceive different elements of the image. Image: Demian Battaglia/MPI f. Dynamics and Self-organization

In a new theoretical study, scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, the Bernstein Center Göttingen and the German Primate Center now show how this is possible without changing the cellular links of the network. The direction of information flow changes, depending on the time pattern of communication between brain areas. This reorganisation can be triggered even by a slight stimulus, such as a scent or sound, at the right time.

The way how the different regions of the brain are connected with each other plays a significant role in information processing. This processing can be changed by assembly and disassembly of neuronal connections between brain areas. But such events are much too slow to explain rapid changes in perception. From experimental studies, it was known that the responsible actions must be at least two orders of magnitude faster. The Göttingen scientists now show for the first time that it is possible to change the information flow in a tightly interconnected network in a simple manner.

Many areas of the brain display a rhythmic nerve cell activity. “The interacting brain areas are like metronomes that tick at the same speed and in a distinct temporal pattern,” says the physicist and principal investigator Demian Battaglia. The researchers were now able to demonstrate that this temporal pattern determines information flow. “If one of the metronomes is affected, e.g., through an external stimulus, then it changes beat, ticking in an altered temporal pattern compared to the others. The other areas adapt to this new situation through self-organisation, and start playing a different drum beat as well. It is therefore sufficient to impact one of the areas in the network to completely reorganize its functioning, as we have shown in our model,” explains Battaglia.

The applied perturbation does not have to be particularly strong. “It is more important that the ‘kick’ occurs at exactly the right time of the rhythm,” says Battaglia. This might play a significant role for perception processes: “When viewing a picture, we are trained to recognize faces as quickly as possible – even if there aren't any,” points out the Göttingen researcher. “But if we smell a fragrance reminiscent of wine, we immediately see the cup in the picture. This allows us to quickly adjust to things that we did not expect by changing the focus of our attention.”

Next, the scientists want to test the model on networks with a more realistic anatomy. They also hope that the findings will inspire future experimental studies, as Battaglia says: “It would be fantastic if, in some years, certain brain areas could be stimulated in such a subtle and precise manner that the theoretically predicted effects can be measured by imaging methods.”

The Bernstein Center Göttingen is part of the National Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience (NNCN) in Germany. The NNCN was established by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research with the aim of structurally interconnecting and developing German capacities in the new scientific discipline of computational neuroscience. The network is named after the German physiologist Julius Bernstein (1835–1917).

Original publication:
Battaglia D, Witt A, Wolf F, Geisel T (2012): Dynamic effective connectivity of inter-areal brain circuits. PLoS Comp Biol, 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002438 http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1002438
For further information please contact:
Dr. Demian Battaglia
demian@nld.ds.mpg.de
Tel: +49 551 5176 405
Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization and
Bernstein Center Computational Neuroscience Göttingen
Am Faßberg 17
D-37077 Göttingen
Weitere Informationen:
http://www.bccn-goettingen.de Bernstein Center Computational Neuroscience Göttingen
http://www.ds.mpg.de Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization
http://www.nncn.de Bernstein Network Computational Neuroscience
http://www.mpg.de Max Planck Society
http://www.dpz.eu German Primate Center GmbH

Johannes Faber | idw
Further information:
http://www.nncn.de/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New type of photosynthesis discovered
17.06.2018 | Imperial College London

nachricht New ID pictures of conducting polymers discover a surprise ABBA fan
17.06.2018 | University of Warwick

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

Im Focus: Water is not the same as water

Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A sprinkle of platinum nanoparticles onto graphene makes brain probes more sensitive

15.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

100 % Organic Farming in Bhutan – a Realistic Target?

15.06.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Perovskite-silicon solar cell research collaboration hits 25.2% efficiency

15.06.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>