Information Flow in the Brain: Ordered Sequences of Metastable States

Information 8 (1):22 (2017)


In this brief overview paper, we analyse information flow in the brain. Although Shannon’s information concept, in its pure algebraic form, has made a number of valuable contributions to neuroscience, information dynamics within the brain is not fully captured by its classical description. These additional dynamics consist of self-organisation, interplay of stability/instability, timing of sequential processing, coordination of multiple sequential streams, circular causality between bottom-up and top-down operations, and information creation. Importantly, all of these processes are dynamic, hierarchically nested and correspond to continuous brain state change, even if the external environment remains constant. This is where metastable coordination comes into play. In a metastable regime of brain functioning, as a result of the simultaneous co-existence of tendencies for independence and cooperation, information is continuously created, preserved for some time and then dissipated through the formation of dynamical and nested spatio-temporal coalitions among simple neuronal assemblies and larger coupled conglomerates of them—so-called delocalised operational modules.

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