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Spiral-shaped signals of neural activity

Spiral-shaped signals of neural activity

The human brain is a complex organ responsible for various cognitive functions. Scientists from the University of Sydney and Fudan University have made a significant discovery regarding brain signals that traverse the outer layer of neural tissue and form spiral patterns. These spirals, observed during both resting and cognitive states, have been found to play a crucial role in organizing brain activity and cognitive processing.

The research study, published in Nature Human Behaviour, focuses on the identification and analysis of spiral-shaped brain signals and their implications for understanding brain dynamics and functions. The study utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans of 100 young adults to observe and analyze these brain signals. By adapting methods used in understanding complex wave patterns in turbulence, the researchers successfully identified and characterized the spiral patterns observed on the cortex.

Our study suggests that gaining insights into how the spirals are related to cognitive processing could significantly enhance our understanding of the dynamics and functions of the brain

Associate Professor Pulin Gong

The brain spirals exhibit intricate and complex dynamics, moving across the brain’s surface while rotating around phase singularities, which act as central points. Similar to vortices in turbulence, these spirals engage in intricate interactions that are crucial for organizing the brain’s complex activities. The interactions among multiple co-existing spirals enable neural computations to be conducted in a distributed and parallel manner, leading to remarkable computational efficiency.

One key characteristic of the brain spirals is their emergence at the boundaries that separate different functional networks in the brain. By their rotational motion, the spirals effectively coordinate the flow of activity between these networks, acting as bridges of communication. During various tasks involving natural language processing and working memory, the brain spirals enable flexible reconfiguration of brain activity by changing their rotational directions.

The discovery of spiral-shaped signals in the brain presents opportunities for advancing computing systems inspired by the brain’s intricate workings. The intricate interactions among brain spirals allow for distributed and parallel neural computations, potentially leading to enhanced computational efficiency in artificial systems. Understanding the relationship between spirals and cognitive processing can significantly contribute to the development of powerful computing machines that mimic the brain’s functioning.

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The discovery of these brain spirals provides valuable insights into the fundamental functions of the human brain and opens up new avenues for studying brain dynamics. By unraveling the mysteries of brain activity and the mechanisms governing its coordination, researchers move closer to unlocking the full potential of understanding cognition and brain function. This research may contribute to the field of neuroscience by offering a fresh perspective on brain organization and providing a foundation for further investigation into the effects of brain diseases such as dementia.

Interacting spiral wave patterns underlie complex brain dynamics and are related to cognitive processing, Yiben Xu, Xian Long, Jianfeng Feng, Pulin Gong.
Published: Nature Human Behaviour, 2023
DOI: 10.1038/s41562-023-01626-5

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