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Self-organization of information processing in developing neuronal networks

Human brains possess sophisticated information processing capabilities, which rely on the coordinated interplay of billions of neurons. Despite recent advances in characterizing the collective neuronal dynamics, however, it remains a major challenge to understand the principles of how functional neuronal networks develop and maintain these processing capabilities. A popular hypothesis is that neuronal networks self-organize to a critical state [13], because in models, criticality maximizes information processing capacities [46]. This predicts that biological networks should develop towards a critical state during maturation, and at the same time processing capabilities should increase. We tested this hypothesis using multi-electrode spike recordings in mouse hippocampal and cortical neurons over the first four weeks in vitro. We showed that developing neuronal networks indeed increased their information processing capacities, as quantified by transfer entropy and active information storage [68]. The increase in processing capacity was tightly linked to decreasing the distance to criticality (correlation r = 0.68, p < 10-9; r = 0.55, p < 10-6 for transfer and storage, respectively). Thereby our results for the first time demonstrate experimentally that approaching criticality with maturation goes in hand with increasing processing capabilities.


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Correspondence to V Priesemann.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Priesemann, V., Lizier, J., Wibral, M. et al. Self-organization of information processing in developing neuronal networks. BMC Neurosci 16 (Suppl 1), P221 (2015).

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