VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality
2. Systems Neuroscience: Multiplex Networks and Critical Function
Sun, Ron, ed. Cognition and Multi-Agent Interaction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. A technical volume on the latest work about the validity and explanation of cerebral activities in human social assemblies. For example, see Panzarasa and Jennings below. At what point then do such evolving communities begin to achieve their “own” organic identity and integral knowledge? That such a spherical cognitive compression, if we might avail ourselves, is taking place on a global scale is the basis of this sourcebook website.
Swanson, Larry. Brain Architecture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. A proficient introductory survey to the evolution and basic principles of sensory and cerebral systems from neurons to cognition.
Tagliazucchi, Enzo and Dante Chialvo. The Collective Brain is Critical. arXiv:1103.2070. University of Buenos Aires and UCLA neuroscientists (search Chialvo) strongly state that as everywhere else, neural anatomy and cogitation is also critically poised between chaos and order, (as we well know) which is actually a smart and effective place to be. See Gyorgy Buzsaki for a companion take. What kind of universe then seems inherently and persistently driven to its own intelligence and self-recognition?
In the nineties, the fundamental concepts behind the physics of complex systems, motivated us to work on ideas that now seem almost obvious: 1) the mind is a collective property emerging from the interaction of billions of agents; 2) animate behavior (human or otherwise) is inherently complex; 3) complexity and criticality are inseparable concepts. These points were not chosen arbitrarily, but derived, as discussed at length here, from considering the dynamics of systems near the critical point of a order-disorder phase transition. (1)
Tetzlaff, Christian, et al. Self-Organized Criticality in Developing Neuronal Networks. PLoS One. 6/12, 2010. By way of a companion approach to Paul Expert, et al above, here University of Gottingen, Freiberg, and Amsterdam computational neuroscientists find a similar “…interplay between activity and connectivity guides developing networks into criticality suggesting that this may be a generic and stable state of many networks in vivo and in vitro.”
Thompson, Evan and Francisco Varela. Radical Embodiment: Neural Dynamics and Consciousness. Cognitive Sciences. 5/10, 2001. One of Francisco Varela’s last contributions which finds sentient awareness to be rooted in an “enactive” brain-body-world interplay rather than confined to purely neuronal events.
Tognoli, Emmanuelle and Scott Kelso. The Metastable Brain. Neuron. 81/1, 2014. The Florida Atlantic University, Human Brain and Behavior Laboratory, neurosciencists provide a summary update of their insights into our dynamic cerebral reciprocities of autonomous neurons and modular syntheses. A 2014 book by this title is in the works, search also for Kelso, et al, 2009 and 2013.
Neural ensembles oscillate across a broad range of frequencies and are transiently coupled or “bound” together when people attend to a stimulus, perceive, think, and act. This is a dynamic, self-assembling process, with parts of the brain engaging and disengaging in time. But how is it done? The theory of Coordination Dynamics proposes a mechanism called metastability, a subtle blend of integration and segregation. Tendencies for brain regions to express their individual autonomy and specialized functions (segregation, modularity) coexist with tendencies to couple and coordinate globally for multiple functions (integration). Although metastability has garnered increasing attention, it has yet to be demonstrated and treated within a fully spatiotemporal perspective. Here, we illustrate metastability in continuous neural and behavioral recordings, and we discuss theory and experiments at multiple scales, suggesting that metastable dynamics underlie the real-time coordination necessary for the brain’s dynamic cognitive, behavioral, and social functions. (Abstract)
Treffner, Paul and Scott Kelso. Dynamic Encounters: Long Memory During Functional Stabilization. Ecological Psychology. 11/2, 1999. Human and universe share the same creative agency.
Evidence and theory suggest that the coordination of human perception and action may be understood as a self-organizing complex system that exhibits great flexibility by operating nearby critical points of instability. (103)
Tsuda, Ichiro. Toward an Interpretation of Dynamic Neural Activity in Terms of Chaotic Dynamical Systems. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 24/6, 2001. The conventional view emphasizes static elements while new insights focus on the fluid, shifting relations between modular components. The active brain is then seen to self-organize by the interplay of retained representation and creative perception.
According to this point of view, a single neuron or neuron assembly is represented by a single code and also by a multiple code; the information representation is realized both by the state of neurons and by the dynamic relation among states. (793)
Van Gelder, Tim. The Dynamical Hypothesis in Cognitive Science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 21/5, 1998. An affirmation of an integrative, self-organizing mental activity to supplant the prior digital computational model.
Van Orden, Guy. Nonlinear Dynamics and Psycholinguistics. Ecological Psychology. 14/1-2, 2002. An introduction to a special issue on this topic. While 20th century cognitive psychology was founded on reductionism and linearity, this article recognizes the irreducible, reciprocal relations between agents and environments. These take on the characteristic form of fractally nested self-organizing systems.
Van Pelt, J., et al, eds. The Self-Organizing Brain: From Growth Cones to Functional Networks. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1994. Proceedings of the 18th International Summer School of Brain Research, University of Amsterdam, August 1993. How the sciences of complexity are bringing a novel understanding of mutually interrelated brain structure and function. Neuronal self-organization is seen to have an epigenetic character beyond molecular programs so as to remove a genetic determination.
Varela, Francisco, et al. The Embodied Mind. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991. An extraordinary work of bridge building from the expansive self of Madhyamika Buddhist psychology over a computational neuroscience view of a fragmented self toward a novel “enactive” theory drawing on connectionist, self-organizing networks.