DOI: 10.14704/nq.2006.4.2.95

Brain Research: A Perspective from the Coupled Oscillators Field

Jose Luis Perez Velazquez


A remarkable characteristic of the theory of coupled oscillators, at least from the admittedly limited biologist’s perspective, is its ability to explain a large variety of phenomena which, regardless of their specific nature and constituents, seem to share common underlying principles that contribute to such characteristic biological phenomena as synchronization, with all its ramifications. From a bunch of fireflies in an open field synchronizing their light emission, to masses of people applauding in a theatre, coupled oscillator formalisms have been applied to determine underlying mechanisms which allow the set of these most unlikely “oscillators” (are people oscillators? and when?) to synchronize. After all, and generally speaking, individuals (cells, brains, persons, fireflies...) can be considered oscillators. Oscillations and synchronization processes pervade all aspects of life, from circadian rhythms to individual habits and traits such as spontaneous synchronization in clapping and walking, in pathologies like epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, or even among the organs in the body which have been considered to be weakly coupled (alteration in their coupling has been proposed to lead to the disorder known as multiple organ dysfunction). In this brief review, we focus on specific contributions of oscillator theory to neuroscience, and comment on current trends to understand the relation between brain activity and behaviour.


neuroscience, coupled oscillators, nonlinear dynamics, neurophysiology, brain

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