Research NewsBiophysics

Mastering the Nonlinear Brain

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Science  19 Sep 1997:
Vol. 277, Issue 5333, pp. 1758-1760
DOI: 10.1126/science.277.5333.1758

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CHICAGO-- By applying concepts from mathematical physics, researchers hope to understand the collective dynamics of billions of neurons--and perhaps control them in epilepsy. Recordings of epileptic seizures, along with other studies of electrical activity in human and animal brains, are linking neuroscience with a rarefied branch of mathematics called nonlinear dynamics, which was developed to make sense of the complicated rhythms of everything from wildly swinging pendulums connected by springs, to the patterns formed by chemical reactions on a metal surface, to wave trains steepening and crashing on a beach. Now a coterie of neuroscientists, biophysicists, and mathematicians is finding that the same concepts can also help them understand the collective dynamics of billions of interconnected neurons in the brain.