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Criticality (with Dr. Dominic Burrows)

In this episode, we were joined by Dr. Dominic Burrows to discuss criticality and brain-wide dynamics, an influential concept in theoretical and systems neuroscience. We explored what criticality means, how it can help us understand the brain, but also how it relates to several biological systems including water, magnets, and sandpiles.


What is criticality?


A helpful review on criticality in the brain - "Self-organized criticality as a fundamental property of neural systems" (Hesse & Gross, 2014) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4171833/


The first study showing criticality in the brain - "Neuronal avalanches in neocortical circuits" (Begs & Plenz, 2003)


Important paper on theory of criticality - "Crackling Noise" (Sethna, Dahmen, & Myers, 2001) https://www.nature.com/articles/35065675



How does water help us understand the concept of criticality?


Liquid state machines and the computational properties of water - "Real-Time Computing Without Stable States: A New Framework for Neural Computation Based on Perturbations" (Maas, Natschlager, & Markram, 2002)


How network response properties are optimised in such liquid state machines - "Real-time computation at the edge of chaos in recurrent neural networks" (Bertschinger & Natschlager, 2004)



What evidence suggests that criticality exists at the single neuron level?


"Single-neuron criticality optimizes analog dendritic computation" (Gollo et al., 2013)



What is self-organising criticality (of sandpile avalanches)?

And how is it related to "pink noise" or 1/f* noise?


"Self-organized criticality" (Perl Bak et al., 1988)


*Reference to our previous episode "Noise in the Brain" https://open.spotify.com/episode/6BNXjSWm2QjEebzqU5n85Z?si=eb2db74bb7c348b4



How is criticality a useful framework for understanding epileptic seizures?


Dominic's PhD thesis- "Whole Brain Network Dynamics of Epileptic Seizures at Single Cell Resolution" (Burrows, 2022)



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