Disorderly genius: How chaos drives the brain

Disorderly genius: How chaos drives the brain


See simulations of the chaotic brain

HAVE you ever experienced that eerie feeling of a thought popping into your head as if from nowhere, with no clue as to why you had that particular idea at that particular time? You may think that such fleeting thoughts, however random they seem, must be the product of predictable and rational processes. After all, the brain cannot be random, can it? Surely it processes information using ordered, logical operations, like a powerful computer?

Actually, no. In reality, your brain operates on the edge of chaos. Though much of the time it runs in an orderly and stable way, every now and again it suddenly and unpredictably lurches into a blizzard of noise.

Neuroscientists have long suspected as much. Only recently, however, have they come up with proof that brains work this way. Now they are trying to work out why. Some believe that near-chaotic states may be crucial to memory, and could explain why some people are smarter than others.


1 comment
  1. Poorly written article on a fascinating subject. NS is moving lately to the “sensesionalist” type of science writing that attracts readers but is buzzword-laden and ultimately confusing as it promotes dreamy misconceptions over mundane explanations. No, there is not a shred of evidence that the mind of a genius is one step from a madman because of the way neurons fire “at the edge of chaos”.(Just read the PLOS paper to convince yourself) The same behavor is observed in cardiac cells and there is a lovely book of Winfree (When Time Breaks Down) that takes you to a tour on the beautiful world of excitable media.

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