The Development of a Noisy Brain

Arch Ital Biol. 2010 Sep;148(3):323-37.


Early in life, brain development carries with it a large number of structural changes that impact the functional interactions of distributed neuronal networks. Such changes enhance information processing capacity, moving the brain from a deterministic system to one that is more stochastic. The evidence from empirical studies with EEG and functional MRI suggests that this stochastic property is a result of an increased number of possible functional network configurations for a given situation. This is captured in the variability of endogenous and evoked responses or "brain noise ". In empirical data from infants and children, brain noise increases with maturation and correlates positively with stable behavior and accuracy. The noise increase is best explained through increased noise from network level interactions with a concomitant decrease of local noise. In old adults, brain noise continues to change, although the pattern of changes is not as global as in early development. The relation between high brain noise and stable behavior is maintained, but the relationships differ by region, suggesting changes in local dynamics that then impact potential network configurations. These data, when considered in concert with our extant modeling work, suggest that maturational changes in brain noise represent the enhancement offunctional network potential--the brain's dynamic repertoire.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nerve Net / blood supply
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Noise*
  • Nonlinear Dynamics*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Time Factors