Multistability and metastability: understanding dynamic coordination in the brain

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2012 Apr 5;367(1591):906-18. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0351.


Multistable coordination dynamics exists at many levels, from multifunctional neural circuits in vertebrates and invertebrates to large-scale neural circuitry in humans. Moreover, multistability spans (at least) the domains of action and perception, and has been found to place constraints upon, even dictating the nature of, intentional change and the skill-learning process. This paper reviews some of the key evidence for multistability in the aforementioned areas, and illustrates how it has been measured, modelled and theoretically understood. It then suggests how multistability--when combined with essential aspects of coordination dynamics such as instability, transitions and (especially) metastability--provides a platform for understanding coupling and the creative dynamics of complex goal-directed systems, including the brain and the brain-behaviour relation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Systems Biology