Skip to main content

Advertisement

Physics of psychophysics: optimal dynamic range of critical excitable networks

Article metrics

  • 708 Accesses

A recurrent idea in the study of complex systems is that optimal information processing is to be found near phase transitions [13]. However, this heuristic hypothesis has few (if any) concrete realizations where a standard and biologically relevant quantity is optimized at criticality. Here we give a clear example of such phenomenon: a network of excitable elements has its sensitivity and dynamic range maximized at the critical point of a nonequilibrium phase transition. Our results are compatible with the essential role of gap junctions in olfactory glomeruli and retinal ganglion cell output. Synchronization and global oscillations also emerge from the network dynamics. We propose that the main functional role of electrical coupling is to provide an enhancement of dynamic range, therefore allowing the coding of information spanning several orders of magnitude. The mechanism provides a microscopic neural basis for psychophysical laws.

References

  1. 1.

    Langton CG: Computation at the edge of chaos: phase transitions and emergent computation. Physica D. 1990, 42: 12-37. 10.1016/0167-2789(90)90064-V.

  2. 2.

    Bak P: How nature works: the science of self-organized criticality. 1997, Oxford University Press, New York

  3. 3.

    Chialvo D: Critical brain networks. Physica A. 2004, 340: 756-765. 10.1016/j.physa.2004.05.064.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Mauro Copelli.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Copelli, M., Kinouchi, O. Physics of psychophysics: optimal dynamic range of critical excitable networks. BMC Neurosci 8, P174 (2007) doi:10.1186/1471-2202-8-S2-P174

Download citation

Keywords

  • Phase Transition
  • Ganglion Cell
  • Retinal Ganglion Cell
  • Neural Basis
  • Relevant Quantity