Complexity and coherency: integrating information in the brain

Trends Cogn Sci. 1998 Dec 1;2(12):474-84. doi: 10.1016/s1364-6613(98)01259-5.


The brains of higher mammals are extraordinary integrative devices. Signals from large numbers of functionally specialized groups of neurons distributed over many brain regions are integrated to generate a coherent, multimodal scene. Signals from the environment are integrated with ongoing, patterned neural activity that provides them with a meaningful context. We review recent advances in neurophysiology and neuroimaging that are beginning to reveal the neural mechanisms of integration. In addition, we discuss concepts and measures derived from information theory that lend a theoretical basis to the notion of complexity as integration of information and suggest new experimental tests of these concepts.