Scientists have made a stunning discovery: human brain signals traverse the outer neural tissue layer and naturally form patterns resembling swirling spirals.
Researchers from the University of Sydney and Fudan University have uncovered human brain signals that traverse the outer neural tissue layer, naturally forming patterns reminiscent of swirling spirals. This breakthrough discovery, which was detailed today in Nature Human Behaviour, implies that these widespread spiral patterns could facilitate the organization of cognitive processing and brain activity.
Spinning into the Future
Lead scientist Associate Professor Pulin Gong, from the School of Physics within the Faculty of Science, stated that this discovery holds potential to propel the development of advanced computing machines that draw inspiration from the human brain’s intricate operations.
The discovery promises to shed new light on our understanding of the brain’s functionality, providing valuable insights into the core functions of the human brain. It may assist medical researchers in comprehending the effects of brain diseases, such as dementia, by analyzing the roles these spiral patterns play.
“Our findings suggest that understanding the relationship between these spirals and cognitive processing could dramatically boost our knowledge of the brain’s dynamics and functions,” said Associate Professor Gong, a member of the Complex Systems research group in Physics.
These spiral patterns exhibit sophisticated dynamics, gliding across the brain’s surface while orbiting around core points, known as phase singularities. The spirals participate in elaborate interactions, much like vortices in turbulence, playing an essential role in organizing the brain’s intricate activities.
“The complex interactions among multiple co-existing spirals could facilitate distributed and parallel neural computations, leading to impressive computational efficiency,” added Professor Gong.
PhD student Yiben Xu, the lead author of the research from the School of Physics, suggested that the spirals’ cortical location could enable them to connect activity between different sections or networks of the brain, serving as communication bridges. Many of these spirals are expansive enough to encompass multiple networks.
The brain’s cortex, or cerebral cortex, is the brain’s outermost layer responsible for various complex cognitive functions, including perception, memory, attention, language, and consciousness.
“A distinguishing feature of these brain spirals is their emergence at boundaries separating different functional brain networks,” Mr. Xu explained.
Spirals that Coordinate Activity Flow
“These spirals coordinate activity flow between these networks through their rotational movement. Our research observed that these interacting brain spirals enable flexible brain activity reconfiguration during various tasks involving natural language processing and working memory, accomplished by altering their rotational directions.”
The scientists amassed their findings from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans of 100 young adults, analyzed using methods adapted to comprehend complex wave patterns in turbulence.
As the field of neuroscience traditionally centers on neuron interactions to understand brain function, a burgeoning science area is examining larger processes within the brain to unravel its enigmas.
“By demystifying brain activity and uncovering its coordination mechanisms, we’re progressing towards comprehending cognition and brain functionality in its entirety,” concluded Associate Professor Gong.
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